Agents of Alternatives - Re-designing Our Realities

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Agents of Alternatives

Re-designing Our Realities

Edited by: Alastair Fuad-Luke Anja-Lisa Hirscher Katharina Moebus

Agents of Alternatives

Re-designing Our Realities

Edited by: Alastair Fuad-Luke Anja-Lisa Hirscher Katharina Moebus


Agents of Alternatives (AoA), Berlin, Germany

First edition produced and published by Agents of Alternatives, Berlin, Germany in May 2015

Edited by: Alastair Fuad-Luke, Anja-Lisa Hirscher, Katharina Moebus

This work, copyright Š 2015 Agents of Alternatives and the individual contributors, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International, available here, with the exception of the essay by David Bollier, which is reproduced here from his book Think Like A Commoner with kind permission from New Society Publishers, copyright Š 2014

Visual concept & cover: Anja-Lisa Hirscher and Katharina Moebus Editorial design: Anja-Lisa Hirscher Page layout: Anja-Lisa Hirscher and Gaspar Mostafa British-English proofreading: Isabelle Machado Aires Translation: German to English by Katharina Moebus

Font: Brandon Grotesque and Aleo, which is licensed under the SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1 Printed by InPrint, Latvia, 2015. The paper is Multi Design Original Natural, Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC)

ISBN: 978-3-00-049379-9 paperback

Agents of Alternatives e.V. Berlin, Germany

Agents of Alternatives

Re-designing Our Realities


Many people and organisations helped make this book a reality. We give a particularly warm thanks to our contributors who generously gave their time and energy to share their experiences and thoughts. We extend our grateful thanks to our crowdfunding sponsors who funded some of the key production costs via a campaign on Sponsume. We thank them for their trust and patience throughout the project. Some of them, as page or content sponsors, also contributed thoughts and words, which we think enriches the content of the book. We thank the Finnish Cultural Foundation (SKR, Suomen Kulttuurirahasto) for funding the early stage research from September 2012 to September 2013. Also, we wish to acknowledge Aalto ARTS (The School of Arts, Design & Architecture, Aalto University), Helsinki, Finland for the research and writing time we were able to dedicate to this project. Alastair extends his thanks to Lahti Region Development (LADEC) Finland for funding received through Aalto ARTS under the Elite 2 project, and to Riikka Salokannel, Design Development Director, with whom he worked from 2011 to 2014. The editorial team acknowledges the support of Professor Pirjo Hirvonen, Head of the Design Department at Aalto ARTS during that period. We are very grateful to Gaspar Mostafa for his significant contribution to the page layout design and for converting raw diagrams into stylish graphics; to Isabelle Machado Aires for the eagle-eyed dedication she brought to British-English proofreading; to Cathérine Kuebel for her contribution in the early phase of the research and to the two workshops we held in Berlin in October 2013 and February 2014. We give sincere thanks to the founding members of the non-profit association Agents of Alternatives agreeing to publish this book as one of its first activities. In addition to the editors of this book, our co-founding members are Malin Bäckman, Nicholas Torretta, Gaspar Mostafa, and Peter Breuer. We thank our lawyer Julia Breuer for her advice during the formation of the organisation and Tabea Glahs and Sanneke Duijf for their input during the organisation's early development together with Daphne Büllesbach and Cecilia Palmer for their experienced advice. Warm thanks to all the contributors who penned something for the book, and to all the named and un-named contributors to the projects we featured: Amber Hickey, Ana Malalan, Andreas Unteidig, Andrew Paterson, Anna Richter, Antonia Schui, Ben Becker, Ben Pohl, Bernd Kniess, Bianca Herlo, Caleb Waldorf, Cecilia Palmer, Christina Nägele, Christopher Laumanns, Cindy Kohtala, Claudia Garduño, Cordula Andrä, Corinna Fuchs, Daphne Büllesbach, David Bollier, David


Griedelbach, Diana Krabbendam, Elisa Garrote-Gasch, Eric Schuldenfrei, Fiona Geuß, Florian Sametinger, Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga, Francesca Weber-Newth, Frauke Hehl, Frigga Haug, Gabi Sobliye, Gesche Joost, Harald Gruendl, Isolde Nagel, Jennifer Schubert, Joel Rosenberg, John A. Harris, Lisa Gutermuth, Luisa Maria Schweizer, Malin Bäckman, Malte Bergmann, Marcin Jakubowski, Marco Kellhammer, Marisa Yiu, Martin Parker, Maya Indira Ganesch, Michel Bauwens, Otto von Busch, Sam Muirhead, Samantha Riccio, Stefanie Gernert, The Public School Berlin, Thinkfarm, Tiina-Kaisa Laakso-Liukkonen, Trade School New York, Valerie A. Brown, Wendy Brawer and Zoe Romano. Sponsors: Adam de Eyto, Aita Bott, Anna-Miia Suihkonen, Anne Badan, Antti Vaahtersalo, Caroline Lutteri, Carolyn Strauss, Christopher Barlow, Claudia Garduño García, Colin Webb, Daphne Büllesbach, Fahrettin Ersin Alaca, Fernando Lusitano, Gaspar Mostafa, Graham Hill, Helge Mahne, Inês Laranjeira, Ingeborg Zimmermann, J. E. Frost, Jakub Bobrowski, Jenni Väänänen, Jessica Walsh, Julian Lindley, Kirsi Niinimaki, Kristiina Karinen, Larry Hickey, Liam Hinshelwood, Lucero Donaji de la Huerta, Merced Gómez, Malin Bäckman, Matei Cioata, Matti Jäppinen, Michael Moebus, Mike Waller, Mima Pejoska, Ying-Ju Lin, Paula Bello, Peter Breuer, Rebekka Moebus, Lili de Larratea, Ricardo Gonçalves, Sakari Karinen, Sarah Johnson, Selçuk Balamir, Siegfried Hirscher, Susanne Bergner, Suvi Kajamaa, Svetlana Usenyuk, Tabea Glahs and Tom White. We would like to extend further personal thanks: Alastair: I am grateful to all my friends, family, co-editors, students and colleagues with whom I’ve shared many conversations during the preparation of this book and who helped me turn emergent thoughts into words. Anja: I would like to thank everyone from my family and home in the Allgäu — my dear friends there — for inspiring walks and talks, plus my friends, colleagues and co-editors in Helsinki and elsewhere, for great discussions and support all along the way. Katharina: My dearest thanks to my love Peter and our little daughter Ofelia, to my family, old friends and new ones made through this book, my co-editors Anja and Alastair, colleagues and co-activists from Helsinki, Berlin and elsewhere for all the inspiring discussions and perspectives that helped make this book.


the contributors The contributors to this book come from diverse fields including architecture, art, design, landscape architecture, urban planning, education and research, to name a few. They are practitioners, activists, designers, artists and academics. This book would not have been possible without their commitment to challenging the paradigm and their belief in creating alternatives.


Alastair Fuad-Luke

Amber Hickey

Ana Malalan

Andreas Unteidig

Andrew Gryf Paterson

Anja-Lisa Hirscher

Anna Richter

Antonia Schui

Ben Becker

Ben Pohl

Bernd Kniess

Bianca Herlo

Cecilia Palmer

Christina Nägele

Christopher Laumanns

Cindy Kohtala

Claudia Garduño

Cordula Andrä

Daphne Büllesbach

David Bollier

Diana Krabbendam

Elisa Garrote-Gasch

Eric Schuldenfrei & Marisa Yiu

Florian Sametinger

Francesca WeberNewth & Isolde Nagel

Frauke Hehl

Frigga Haug

Gabi Sobliye

Gesche Joost

Harald Gruendl

Jennifer Schubert

Joel Rosenberg

John A. Harris

Katharina Moebus

Luisa Maria Schweizer

Lisa Gutermuth

Malin Bäckman

Malte Bergmann

Marcin Jakubowski

Marco Kellhammer

Martin Parker

Maya Indira Ganesh

Michel Bauwens

Otto von Busch

Sam Muirhead

Stefanie Gernert

The Public School Berlin


Tiina-Kaisa Laakso-Liukkonen

Trade School New York

Valerie A. Brown

Wendy Brawer & Samantha Riccio

Zoe Romano



Introduction How to use this book Alternative worlds Map of contributions An evolving lexicon

12 16 18 20 22

THINKING Essays ’Hacking in the name of…’: Agents of Alternatives and Virtuous Vigilantes by Otto von Busch (OvB) A collective mind for a just and sustainable future by Valerie A. Brown and John A. Harris (VBJH)


Interviews Amber Hickey, A Guidebook ofAlternative Nows (GAN) Daphne Büllesbach & Luisa Maria Schweizer, European Alternatives (EA) Tiina-Kaisa Laakso-Liukkonen, Design Driven City (DDC) Case Study Tools for the Design Revolution by Institute of Design Research Vienna (IDRV)

40 46

58 66 78


94 LEARNING Essays Learning by doing - the transformative power of do-it-together (DIT) by Katharina Moebus (KM) Interview Caleb Waldorf, Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga and Fiona Geuß, The Public School Berlin (PS)




Case Studies Aalto Lab Mexico by Claudia Garduño (ALM) Women’s Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit by Maya Indira Ganesh and Lisa Gutermuth, Tactical Technology Collective (WRC/TTC)) Interjection Starting a Trade School by Trade School New York (TS)

SHARING Essays The Commons as a Different Way of Seeing and Being by David Bollier (DB)* Are there Alternatives beyond the market? by Michel Bauwens (MB)

116 128


140 142 158

Interviews Maya Indira Ganesh and Gabi Sobliye, Tactical Technology Collective (TTC) Cecilia Palmer, Open Fashion & Code (OF)

172 182

Case Studies Open Green Map by Wendy E. Brawer with Samantha Riccio (GM) Pixelache Festival by Andrew Gryf Paterson (PA) Satokartta by Joel Rosenberg (SK) OpenWear - Collaborative Clothing by Zoe Romano (OW)

190 200 214 220

MAKING Essays Systems of Resilience: A dialogue on digital makers, making and their principles of conduct by Cindy Kohtala (CK) The Joyful Experiences of Making Together by Anja-Lisa Hirscher (ALH)

228 230 240

*We are very sorry, but this essay can only be included in the printed copy of the book due to copyright restrictions from the author's publishing house.


Interviews Marcin Jakubowski, Global Village Construction Set & Open Source Ecology (GVCS) Elisa Garrote-Gasch, Repair Café Berlin (RC) Case Study Make{able} - Valuable clothes designed together by Anja-Lisa Hirscher (M)

INTERVENING Essays Design activism’s teleological freedoms as a means to transform our habitus by Alastair Fuad-Luke (AFL)



278 280

Interview Diana Krabbendam, The Beach (TB)


Case Studies Bring Your Own Biennale by Eric Schuldenfrei and Marisa Yiu (BYOB) Neighbourhood Labs by Design Research Lab, Berlin University of the Arts (NL)

310 322

Interjection Designing with(in) a community: Sharing insights gained through practice by Malin Bäckman (MB)

WORKING Essays The 4-in-1-perspective by Frigga Haug (FH) The architect and the bee revisited: Managing, organising and agency by Martin Parker (MP)




350 352 362

Interviews Frauke Hehl and Antonia Schui, workstation ideenwerkstatt e.V. (WS) David Griedelbach and Corinna Fuchs, Thinkfarm (TF)

372 382

Case Studies Anselma: The ‘everything is possible‘ public studio by Ana Malalan (A) Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie by Christopher Laumanns (KNÖ)

388 396

LIVING Essay University of the Neighbourhoods – Hotel as Method? by Benjamin Becker, Stefanie Gernert, Bernd Kniess, Ben Pohl, and Anna Richter (UdN) Interviews Cordula Andrä, Centre for Experimental Cultural and Social Design (ZEGG) Francesca Weber-Newth & Isolde Nagel, Community Lover’s Guide to Berlin (CLG)

406 408

430 440

Case Study Year of Open Source by Sam Muirhead (YOS)


PRACTICES & REFLECTIONS Stuff that works Afterthoughts Further reading Endnotes

460 462 476 478 480



You hold in your hands a book which is really a manifestation of an evolving vision to link designing with everyday ‘active-ism’ which helps materialise plausible ‘alternatives’ to the global economy and neo-liberal capitalist practices. This was driven by an underlying belief that we need to ‘re-design our realities’ to better reflect and respond to our pressing contingent challenges about our social, ecological and financial condition. Exploring ‘agents of alternatives’ demands a multidisciplinary dialogue within and between citizens, practitioners and academics who make things happen. So, you will find contributors from diverse fields: design, the arts, architecture, education, politics, economics, urban planning and city administration, social enterprise and the informal sector, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), experts on the commons, and others. We encouraged activists, researchers, educationalists, strategists and facilitators to share their views. In this book we mix the voices of well-known contributors alongside lesser-known active local agents. We look for emergent ways of learning-by-doing, of designing, of manifesting things differently and catalysing positive change, and we present these ways of thinking and practicing so that others might fruitfully experiment with, explore and generate alternatives for themselves. Agency Our position is that everyone and everything has agency, that is, the capacity to change what happens next. A position reinforced by certain philosophers – for example, Bruno Latour’s human and non-human ‘actants’, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s ‘social material assemblages’, and Jane Bennett’s ‘vibrant matter’.1 We, and our contributors, also adopt more accepted sociological and anthropological views of agency involving the social structures, systems and rules which bind or break them. Those with agency are actors, stakeholders, shareholders, institutions, organisations, diverse communities and other social groups. We would also invoke ‘political agency’ as a healthy form of disagreement and discourse as part of our civic and human condition, not confined within formalised institutionalised practices of ‘politics’. In this sense we see the political agency of this book and its

1  See, for example, Latour, B., 2005. Reassembling the Social. An introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F., 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; and Bennett, J., 2010. Vibrant Matter. A political ecology of things. Durham, USA: Duke University Press.


contributors as a means to re-examine and explore our social relations and our relations with the wider world so that we might, individually and collectively posit or construct alternatives. The agents Who are these agents of alternatives? They exhibit some common features: they are independently minded, but share a critical awareness of our social, ecological and economic condition; they have a vision but it is adaptive to changing circumstances; they are open and transparent, showing their processes and sharing their expertise; they start their journey with the (often meagre) resources at their disposal and show perseverance; they believe their voice counts and encourage others to add their voices too; they turn rhetoric into action; and they reveal opportunities and possibilities. Most importantly, all our contributors here are ‘making things happen’, they are active not passive, caring not distant, and different not conformist. Read their voices in the essays, interviews and case studies. Alternatives Anyone, or anything, contesting the status quo, societal ‘norms’ or contemporary paradigmatic forces, is, potentially, an ‘alternativ-ist’. To be an alternativ-ist is not a new position but has an illustrious history which embraces daring individuals, collective movements, specialised groups and minorities.2 Here we define our alternatives through a series of imagined worlds –Thinking, Learning, Sharing, Making, Intervening, Working, and Living – worlds which evolved as the content for the book grew (see p.18-19). We see these worlds intertwined, joined by a series of emergent practices (p.462) and expressed through an evolving lexicon (p.22-37). These alternatives are still young, yet they are potentially catalytic and, if scaled-up, can encourage a transition towards more sustainable, equable and adaptable futures. We found professionally organised alternatives that try to bridge policy-making and grassroots activism as well as small initiatives that have spread all around the world, because their underlying ideas are so simple, accessible and welcoming to a wide range of people. There are different ways of changing society, and this book tries to have a closer look at the potential of the informal and formal worlds of change makers. Re-designing Our shared vision for this book was also underpinned with a belief that the field of design is diffusing out into wider society and is no longer just the primary concern of professionally trained designers, but is actually being practiced by other profes-

2  Parker, M., Fournier, V. and Reedy, P., 2007. The Dictionary of Alternatives: Utopianism and Organisation. London: Zed Books.


sionals, professional amateurs and citizen designers. We share and update Victor Papanek’s view that ‘all people are designers’,3 and Joseph Beuys’ political position making all citizens ‘artists’ that shape the ‘social sculpture’ of our society.4 And, we believe that a sustainable way of designing is to work with what is existent in a ‘locale’5 – a diverse array of human, social, public, commercial and natural capitals. In this sense ‘re-designing’ makes more sense than ‘designing’, because it involves re-configuring the potential of what already exists. This might, of course, involve bringing in new ingredients and smartly combining them to create fresh potentialities. The initiatives, projects and ideas collated in this book are representative for a growing global ‘zeitgeist’ (spirit of the time) around openness and sharing. This means making ideas accessible to everyone so that they can be adapted to diverse local conditions. Most of them are open source so individual authorship becomes less important and the positive impacts and potentialities of sharing are emphasised. They bring different communities and places around the world together in a dynamic self-organised and, often, surprising way. To summarise, it is our hope that this book will stimulate you, the reader, to become an agent of alternatives too…

3  Papanek’s original quote was ‘All men are designers’, p.17 in Papanek, V., 1974. Design for the Real World. Human Ecology and Social Change. St. Albans, UK: Paladin. 4  See, for example, and 5  ‘Locale’ has an etymological root in ‘locus’, Latin for place, and is a French word defining local. More importantly, locale, is a combination of unique ingredients or characteristics which differentiate what it means to be local. Locale is a scalable phenomenon that, like the famous Charles and Ray Eames’ film Powers of Ten, can be felt at many scales from one square metre to a hectare or more. It is also a meeting place of various communities, it is the location of specific human ecologies. So each locale has a unique combination of communities of place, communities of practice, communities of interest and communities of circumstance and other types of communities. Source: Fuad-Luke, A., 2012. Locale. Window874, available at


Editors' notes: We added editors' footnotes to interview and case study texts where we thought it would assist the reader. In the essays these are marked as such, to distinguish them from the original contributor's footnotes.



The founding principle of this book is that the diverse content provided by the contributors would drive an emergent structure. We came together in November 2013 in Helsinki to analyse the content we’d already received and to develop the language for the book (Figure 1.). We believed, and still believe, that genuine empowerment happens by locating ourselves within an alternative framework, by seeing positive disruptions to the status quo, by repositioning what designing can do, and by focusing on Our Commons (we use ‘our’ not ‘the’ to emphasise that the default ownership is ‘us’ and ‘we’, not ‘them’) and how we can share in better ways for the common good.

Figure 1. Some emergent keywords from the editors’ conversation in November 2013. © AoA.

In February 2014 the editors came together in Berlin to further explore and understand the content we had already received and do an initial mapping of its relations (Figure 2.). These two meetings led us to create an active vocabulary and initiated a conversation about whether we could analyse and synthesise the content into a more constructive and practical arrangement that would inspire. We understood that people were acting and taking action around different focal areas — we called these areas ‘alternative worlds’ (see next page). They are/were developing [design] practices that help encourage a transition from the existing situation to a preferred situation (to borrow from the words of Herbert Simon1). We analysed these prac-


Figure 2. The editors having a ‘eureka’ moment with Cathérine Kuebel in Berlin, February 2014. © AoA.

tices and have presented them as ‘Stuff that works’ (p.462). These practices range from those based upon eminent common sense to ingenious ways of encouraging transformation. We hope you will recognise some, and add your own. We also observed that people were talking and writing about their ‘worlds’ and ‘practices’ with new language, so we created an ‘evolving lexicon’ (pp.22-37). We hope that these collated ‘insights’, ‘practices’, ‘emergent words’ and, of course, the detailed content from our contributors, will stimulate you, the reader, to reflect and re-think your own position. We hope that flipping between this synthesis of the content and the actual content will provide its own stimulus. In short, we hope that this extra joining of information at a ‘meta’ level, might provide some magic ingredients to generate, nourish and sustain alternatives. Map of contributions Each contribution in this book was assigned to a ‘primary’ world with other worlds as ‘secondary’ influences to see how the different projects, initiatives and philosophies interweave and cluster. The outcome is a ‘map of contributions’ (pp.20-21) which allows a different way of navigating through the book and making sense of its contents. It serves as an addition to the traditional list of contents and invites you, the reader, to experience the book in many different ways: non-linearly, according to chapter, interest, theme, format and so on. Enjoy the journey.

1  Simon, H., 1996 (1969). The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


alternative worlds

We believe that alternatives are best created and designed together by thinking differently and making those thoughts tangible by taking action. The diversity of contributions in this book highlights that there are many intertwined worlds with which we can engage. We offer working definitions of these worlds, without asserting them to be either final or complete, hoping that you will add your own. We believe that by combining these worlds in different ways, we can ‘re-design our realities’.

Thinking – the diverse acts and practices of discursive activities, free association, ideation, inquiring, intuiting, philosophising, reasoning, reflecting, ruminating and synthesising individually and/or collectively as a means to nourish our human, social and other capitals.

Learning – the activities of acquiring, giving and exchanging skills, knowledge and experiences by teaching oneself and others, and learning from each other to encourage healthy social discussion, evolution of new wisdoms and activation of hidden capabilities.

Sharing – acts, actions or reciprocal relations between individuals, groups and communities to enjoy and enrich something together (time, objects, experiences, etc.) based on respectful mutuality, interdependency, openness and generosity.


Making – the act of bringing a form, process, service or experience to life, while realising individual and/or collective creative human potential and capital.

Intervening – introducing activities and/or artefacts to engage, by consensus or disruption, to stimulate dialogue and actions towards a common purpose as a means to better our world.

Working – modes of being active, of acting, operating, functioning, organising and practicing to achieve something, to earn or make a livelihood, to be a valued contributor to society, its individual members and to oneself.

Living – human activities of alive-ness, being-ness, existences, livelihoods and other ways of being that affect our individual and collective condition, our thriving and flourishing, and our natural, spatial, physical, mental, spiritual and other dimensions of being in the world.



Map of Contributions The initials represent the contributors listed in the contents on p.8 with their respective page numbers.


KM 96


TS 138 WRC 128 DB 142

ALM 116

MB 158

PS 108

SK 214 GM 190

ALH 240 OW 220

TTC 172

GVCS 250


RC 258 M 268 CK 230


BYOB 310





FH 352

GAN 58 UdN 408

TF 382 CLG 440

OvB 40

KNÖ 396 ZEGG 430

DDC 78 AFL 280

MP 362

NL 322

EA 66

YOS 450 A 388

OF 182

WS 372

PA 200


TB 296

MB 338



an evolving lexicon

Here are words and expressions used by our contributors to describe their beliefs, thoughts and activities — see the emboldened words in each contribution. We think they deserve further explanation as they point to a shift in language and emergent concepts. We believe these constitute an interesting vocabulary which can help shape alternatives.


activism: efforts to promote and further social, political, economic, or environmental change, which can manifest itself in an unlimited variety of forms such as political campaigns, boycotts, street marches, sit-ins, performances, pop-ups, physical interventions and much more. advocacy: involves proposing, championing and supporting a cause or issue with, or on behalf of, a minority or interest group or community for taking action to change a situation. agency: the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices; the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity, human or any living being in general, or soul-consciousness in religion) to act in a world.+ agent of an alternative way: a person using their agency to change the current situation towards a more desired alternative to the mainstream. agents of alternatives: those seeking to challenge and change the existing paradigm. They aim to be catalysts and enablers of transition, from one state of a system to a new state. agents of change: raise awareness, build capability and capacity and enable people to change their existing behaviour towards more positive outcomes for all. agonism: a political theory, also known as ‘agonistic pluralism’, which sees continuous (political) conflict as a necessary means to achieve diverse democratic expression and resolution in addressing society’s challenges. Leading theorists Chantel Mouffe and Ernest Laclau frame agonism as an arena where confrontations and differences are central to contemporary meanings of democracy. agreement: to reach the same point of view or harmonious opinion by conversation, discussion, dialogue or other means of verbal, written or visual communication. alternative economy: emerging parallel economic model based on other values than the prevalent neo-liberal values. Alternative economies are often experimental and iterative on a small scale. alternative ways of knowing: knowledge that is collectively constructed, context-specific, partial and provisional, making a distinction ‘between knowing something and knowing better’, after Marianne Maeckelbergh. amateurism: often associated with clumsy work, but the term originally stems from the Latin word amare: love doing something with passion without having been educated in it. antagonism: an open way of provoking, disturbing or unsettling people to contest the status quo by embracing an act/action of resistance, opposition or contestation. Anthropocene: a popular environmental term to describe the geological age in which we live now, in which humanity is influencing every aspect of the Earth and its systems. Anthroposphere: one of the Earth's ‘spheres’, like atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere, except that this is the one that is made or modified by humans for human activities and living environments. It includes synthetic, man-made, materials. art activism: any form of art that is motivated by political change using artistic formats or claiming to be an artistic practice (which is often difficult to distinguish from ‘everyday activism’).

Note: + indicates that the source is taken, or adapted, from Wikipedia,


architecture of participation: a phrase coined by Tim O'Reilly that is used to describe the nature of systems that are designed to encourage a community of users to contribute to the content, or to the design and development process.+ attainable micro-utopias: a suggestion by design theorist John Wood, that micro-utopias are far more doable and reachable than grander Utopian projects or visions, and that they can be achieved by applying a holistic conceptual design framework which he calls ‘metadesign’, whereby social, economic and technical infrastructures can enable new forms of collaborative design. autonomy: the capacity of an individual or group to make informed and independent decisions.



Bar Camp/BarCamp model: an international network of user-generated conferences and an open participatory workshop format where the content and structure are provided and decided by the participants, involving many short presentations and discussions. Bar Camps were originally focused around technology and the web, but have been adapted by many other industries and interest groups. barter: a system of exchange in which goods or services are directly exchanged without the use of a medium of exchange, such as money; to be distinguished from gift economies, because the reciprocal exchange is immediate and not delayed in time. basic income: also known as ‘unconditional or citizen’s income’, a concept where all citizens are granted a regular payment of an unconditional sum of money to secure social security and give the individual freedom to choose activities independent from financial remuneration. biopoetics: a metaphysics and a biological theory, after Andreas Weber, that can explain ‘the deep relationship between felt experience and biological principles’ and expands conventional science, providing ‘a new holistic account of biology as the interaction of subjects producing and providing meaning and hence laying the ground for understanding the meaningful cosmos of human imagination’. bitcoin: is one of the more popular digital (virtual) currencies. It is a decentralised, international, digital payment system (there is no central bank), protected by very strong encryption. bottom-up: from the lowest level of a hierarchy or process to the top; term often used for political initiatives that aim to change things in society ‘from the bottom-up’. buen vivir: ‘good living’, as expressed in Spanish is an alternative concept of development that emerged as a response to traditional development strategies and their negative environmental, social, or economic effects; where the focus is on the attainment of the ‘good life’ while living in harmony with other people and nature.+ business model canvas: this is a concept for developing business models proposed by Alex Oosterwalder and Yves Pigeur. The ‘canvas’ is a visual diagram of the key elements of a business which enables one to model the essential value proposition of the business and how this relates to the key activities, resources and partners; how it affects the cost structure and revenue streams; and how this determines customer relationships, customer segments and the channels for communication.

capability: is the ability to perform or achieve certain actions or outcomes through a set of controllable and measurable faculties, features, functions, processes, or services. In the 1980s Amartya Sen proposed the ‘capability approach’ as an economic theory for approaching welfare. Central to his proposal was that it is a kind of freedom to have alternatives to choose from.+ capital (cultural, social, symbolic): these three forms of capital were described by Pierre Bourdieu, the French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher. He saw prestige, honour and attention in society as a form of symbolic capital; competences, skills and the abilities to mobilise cultural authority as cultural capital; and described ‘social capital is the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalised relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition’.+ citizen innovation: see ‘social innovation’. citizenship: has dual references today, being a formal, legal recognition of an individual to be part of a state and to have a nationality, and as a set of skills and capability to be a citizen who contributes to the good of society as a whole. City Designers: a term coined by the Design Driven City (DDC) project in Helsinki, Finland, which was initiated in 2013. DDC has its own design experts, called ‘city designers’. They originate from a variety of design professions and are not necessarily urban planners or architects. They deploy participatory design and co-design methods to involve multiple interests in a project. clicktivism: internet activism which is criticised as half-hearted since it is often lacking actual direct, physical engagement with the real world issues. is a collaborative and, often, multi-disciplinary cooperation as a means of creating together. It involves


methods where customers/users/participants are actively involved in the ideation process of a new product/service/experience to create a more valuable outcome. Co-creation has been adopted by business management, design and other fields wishing to benefit from the unpredictable outputs and outcomes of the co-creation process. In the design field it is sometimes synonymous with ‘co-design’.+ co-design/co-designers/co-design workshops: co-design is designing together. It has gained in popularity amongst design researchers and is gaining traction in private and public sector projects. There is ‘open’ co-design where the processes and outputs are open source (see below) for all to use, and ‘closed’ co-design where only the participants and their organisations have access to the intellectual property and its exploitation. Co-designers are professional designers, other professionals, amateurs and citizens who identify problems, needs and challenges, develop a design brief and then design the solution or outcome together. A workshop format is often best to encourage people to co-design as it allows everyone to contribute, especially in the hands of a skilled facilitator. collaboration: a way of working together to combine intellectual, practical and aesthetic capabilities to a greater effect than working on one’s own. collaborative design sessions: see ‘co-design’, ‘co-creation’. collective action: an action that can only be achieved collectively; after Penta, L. collective thinkers/thinking: are those who value collaborative, inclusive processes which bring together different fields of knowledge. These thinkers share their knowledge, on a personal and introspective level with the collective, which in-turn enables a collective mind which accepts the dynamic nature of systems and the benefits of rational and creative knowledge to respond to those changes. Advocates of collective thinking include Valerie Brown, John Harris and Judith Lambert. collectivism: is any philosophic, political, religious, economic, or social outlook that emphasises the interdependence of every human being. Collectivism is a basic cultural element that exists as the reverse of individualism in human nature. Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation.+ commodity logic: a mode of thinking that always refers to commodities and profit-making commoning: living and practicing the commons; coming together to do things together for the communal good of a community, a neighbourhood or other social group. commonism: new term which merges communism with the commons — an emergent movement without a strict political ideology, but underpinned by the philosophy of sharing. commoners: people who contribute to and have rights to the commons. See also ‘commoning’. commonplace: ordinary everyday things, places and experiences of which we all share knowledge of, in our own particular cultural context(s). commons: a general term describing all cultural and natural resources accessible to every member of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth, but also immaterial goods like knowledge and such; derives from the traditional English legal term of common land, colloquially the ‘Commons’. commons-based economics: economic structures based on non-privatised, publically owned and common-owned goods. community: a group or network of people tied with social relations that are held important for their social identity and social practice; with the advent of the internet, the term extended to virtual and online communities.+ community infrastructure: a flexible, open and re-configurable assemblage of social and material elements that give communities the capability of developing authorship, after Neighbourhood Labs. community initiatives: any project or work begun by, owned by or acted upon by a community. community organising: a process where people who live in proximity to each other come together into an organisation that acts in their shared self-interest.+ complex systems: are difficult to model or simulate. Most natural systems are complex. Complexity science investigates how relationships between parts give rise to the collective behaviours of a system and how the system interacts and forms relationships with its environment.+ content management system (CMS): is a computer application that allows publishing, editing and modifying content, organising, deleting as well as maintenance from a central interface.+ consensus: general agreement on something, but also it is about group solidarity and feeling united. conviviality: the quality or state of being social, friendly and lively; time spent together socially. cooperation: is the process of groups of organisms working or acting together for their common/ mutual benefit, as opposed to working in competition for selfish benefit.+ cooperative: an autonomous association of people who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit.+ cooperative lending systems: are similar to cooperative banking systems and can include retail banking carried out by credit unions, mutual savings banks, building societies and cooperatives, as well as commercial banking services provided by mutual organisations (such as cooperative federations)


to cooperative businesses.+ cooperativism: see ‘cooperative’. co-working space: shared work spaces where anyone can rent a table for either a day, a week, or a month to avoid working from home or in a café; usually, there is a strong community which enables new projects to be born, collaborations and learning from each other. Creative Commons/Creative Commons licence: open licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work; used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created, providing an author flexibility while protecting the people who use or redistribute an author's work from concerns of copyright infringement as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the license by which the author distributes the work.+ creative industries: sometimes synonymous with the ‘cultural industries’ and seen as an integral part of the ‘creative economy’ — the kind of industries which can bring wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property. Typically this includes: advertising; architecture; arts and antique markets; crafts; design; designer fashion; film, video and photography; software, computer games and electronic publishing; music and the visual and performing arts; publishing; television; and radio. critical consciousness: a term coined by Paolo Freire describing the state of liberated thinking. critical or radical pedagogy: an educational approach coined by Paolo Freire which puts critical thinking and self-determined learning of the student at the centre of the learning. cross-fertilise/fertilisation: in biological terms it means introducing new genetic material into existing varieties, cultivars or breeds to increase the range of genes and improve resistance to disease and/ or create increased vigour. In design terms it means taking the ‘design code’ of an object or product and introducing new elements of code from another object or product. crowdfunding/crowdfunded: collectively funding costs for a project, where mostly, people from the ‘crowd’ don’t know each other; internet crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or Sponsume are most widely known. crowdsourcing: ideas, know-how and skills are sourced from a large group of people, often through online platforms or communities, to solve a challenge or problem rather than using more traditional (re-)sources such as employees or suppliers. crusaders: people who typically take up an issue or have a vision and initiate and/or lead projects, campaigns and initiatives. cultural advocacy: active presentation of arguments, activities and/or actions to support an artistic, creative or social issue, area, or field to ensure it gains wider attention. cultural provocateurs: are those who question our socio-cultural, socio-political and socio-economic values and systems. customer co-production: joint production of an object between, for example, professional designers or companies and the end-consumer of the product.


degrowth: a worldwide political, economic, and social movement that advocates the downscaling of production and consumption to solve environmental issues and social inequalities without decreasing people's well-being, but by maximising happiness by working and consuming less to have more time for recreation, family, culture and society.+ democracy (deep): a community practice that includes democracy as it is now understood but goes deeper with skilled facilitators working and feeling with people. Deep democracy is linked with the work of Arnold Mindell, who proposed a theory and practices for working with conflict, leadership and social issues by applying process orientated psychology in group work.+ democracy (direct): is a political system where the citizens participate in the decision-making personally, contrary to relying on intermediaries or representatives. It is also known as ‘pure democracy’, a type of democracy where the people govern directly.+ deschooling: a concept and educational philosophy coined by Ivan Illich in his 1971 book, Deschooling Society, which was a ‘radical critical discourse on education as practised in ‘modern’ economies’. ‘Deschooling is the idea that learning can take place everywhere (not just in schools and other educational institutions). He presciently proposed ‘educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one [of us] to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.’ He suggested that de-institutionalising education would help de-institutionalise society.+ design activism, design activist: as this is an emergent sub-field in the discipline of design there isn’t a single agreed definition, however there is an agreement that design activism encompasses design practices related to: raising awareness; advocacy; actions; intentions towards social change, social and/or ecological causes; challenging the conventions of design knowledge through radical and


disruptive practices in terms of thinking, processes, imagination and aesthetics; creating counternarratives and counter-dialogues. A design activist, is often a ‘non-aligned social broker and catalyst; a facilitator; an author; a creator; a co-author; and a ‘happener’ (someone who makes things happen)’, after Alastair Fuad-Luke. Design as Infrastructuring: emphasises the inclusion and empowerment of citizens to take over the collectively developed framework; after Binder, T. et al. 2014, Design Things. design for social innovation: see ‘social design’. Design for Sustainability (DfS): any design practice orientated towards development which balances environmental, social and economic impacts and concerns for sustaining the present and the future. design probes: a design method developed in the middle to the late 1990s at the Royal College of Art, London, UK, by Bill Gaver, Antony Dunne and Elena Pacenti. Probes aim to explore the lives and habits of people as they interact with objects, products and spaces by giving them the means to record and reflect on their everyday practices. The ‘means’ may be a diary, a camera, a set of questions, visual prompts or other devices to enable the people to document their lives so that designers and design researchers may better understand the issues people face and their needs. design thinking: design-specific cognitive activities that designers apply during the process of designing; combining empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality in analysing and fitting various solutions to the problem context.+ Design thinking is applied to different perspectives: strategy, management, operations, research, prototyping and detailed design content. digital commons: refers to data, knowledge, resources, networks, software and hardware to which we can contribute, access, use and help govern for the greater good. See also, the ‘commons’. digital fabrication and manufacturing: any manufacturing process where the equipment and its functions are controlled by software and, hence, digital source code. digital strangers: a person that you temporarily treat as a close personal friend but which you have only met via digital means and have yet to meet face to face in real life. distributed manufacturing/production: a form of decentralised manufacturing, which is benefiting from information technology to coordinate a network of geographically distributed production facilities. It is also known as distributed production and local manufacturing. domestic manufacturing: when individual citizens can digitally manufacture components and products from home using, for example, 3D printers. do-it-together (DIT): is an emerging movement originating from the do-it-yourself (DIY) concept, where activities are done together in a group, not by oneself, for mutual benefit. do-it-yourself (DIY): the method of building, repairing and modifying without the aid of professionals, taken up by environmental movements and ordinary citizens in the 1960s and 1970s, and continuing today. do-it-yourself agency: self-motivated acting, using one’s own capacity and skills. dwelling-as-practice: is a practical and theoretical way of evolving architectural and spatial solutions by living and working within the architecture and responding or adapting to the changing conditions of the context over time. The term was originated by those involved in the University of the Neighbourhoods, Hamburg. See also ‘enabling architecture ‘Ermöglichungsarchitektur’’.



eco-tourism: responsible tourist experiences which successfully combine environmental conservation and protection with the use of local resources, community participation and equitable, profitable enterprises. embedded researchers: a strategy where researchers live in the real-life surroundings and directly experience the place where their research is taking place. empower/empowering/empowerment: the process of encouraging and developing skills to enable people to become self-sufficient and autonomous with the goal of eliminating the future need for charity or welfare.+ enabling architecture ‘Ermöglichungsarchitektur’: architectural 'settings for spatial and programmatic changes that emerge in specific situations and contexts rather than being planned in advance', after the University of the Neighbourhoods (UdN). See also ‘dwelling-as-practice’. engagement strategies: methods used to motivate people to become and stay an active participant in for example, community projects, citizen movements, activist group and so on. Enlivenment: a new type of rebirth to succeed the Enlightenment that can be reached by mediating, co-operating, sanctioning, negotiating and agreeing to experienced reality, after Andreas Weber. ethnographic research: scientific study of societies and cultures by detailed first-hand observation

and documentation of everyday life practices by being immersed in a specific socio-cultural context. everyday practices: the diverse daily working, living and leisure habits, customs, traditions and ways of doing things which we do without thinking. Everyday practices tend to reflect and/or maintain the accepted systems and structures. existential ecology: its primary concern is subjects, not objects alone, with human beings and human subjectivity not being separate from nature. experiential learning: see ‘mutual experiential learning’. experimental set-up ‘Versuchsanordnung’: an artificially created situation that allows experimentation and research, after UdN. experimenteur: people who are not afraid of failure, trying out different things in an iterative process rather than planning and knowing everything in advance. expert of everyday life: term to describe a member of a community or neighbourhood who knows best what their everyday life looks like. extreme learning, production and manufacturing: learning as collaborative making to produce a working manufactured product from a blueprint. It is ‘extreme’ as the process makes high demands on all the learners-as-teachers and is conducted in a specific timeframe, so the learning experience is intense, after Open Source Ecology.



fab labs, hackerspaces and makerspaces: usually public places where anyone interested can come in and start making/inventing with a range of digital machines, supported by a community of makers and hackers (see below). fabbing: activities where hobbyists, professionals, inventors and the curious can experiment with and realise their own ideas; usually associated with digital fabrication laboratories or FabLabs. field: one of the core concepts used by French social scientist Pierre Bourdieu; describes a setting in which agents and their social positions are located, which are a result of interaction between the specific rules of the field, the agent's habitus (mindset and behavioural patterns) and agent's capital (social, economic and cultural).+ flash mob: a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a short time, before quickly dispersing for entertainment, protest or artistic expression; mostly organised via telecommunications or social media.+ FLOSS manuals: are more than a collection of manuals about free and open-source software, they also represent a community. The contributors include designers, readers, writers, illustrators, free software fans, editors, artists, software developers, activists, and many others. Anyone can contribute to a manual — to fix a spelling mistake, add a more detailed explanation, write a new chapter, or start a whole new manual on a topic. foraging: see ‘urban foraging’. free culture: the academic and political activist Lawrence Lessig popularised the term ‘free culture’ in his 2004 book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. Today, it is an amalgam of socially concerned movements gathered around the idea of free access and use of creative works which can be modified and distributed, albeit with a primary focus on digital content and its circulation through the internet. fruit maps: online maps showing where to pick edible fruit legally and for free.

Gaia: the Greek goddess of the Earth; by calling the system of our planet Earth ‘Gaia’, industrial chemist James Lovelock connected the biophysical planet with the human social, ethical, aesthetic and sympathetic systems that determine our planet’s future. genius of the place/genius loci: also the spirit of place; the unique, distinctive and cherished invisible aspects (such as history, tales and culture) and physical and personal aspects of a place. GitHub: ‘git’ is a free software system which enables a decentralised, speedy and efficient network for the collaborative development of software. A ‘GitHub’ is a web-based graphical interface which hosts and enables easy access to a repository of Gits to facilitate projects and their development.+ good life: a term for the life or happiness that one strives to live; after Aristotle’s concept of ‘eudaimonia’, or human flourishing. See also ‘buen vivir’. grassroots approach: grassroots refers to the origination of ideas, activities and, potentially, community, social and political change, through initiatives led by local people, or an online network focused on specific issues, or other social groups often outside traditional political power structures. It is a ‘can-do’ approach characterised by social and/or cultural actions. grassroot projects: movements whose creation and support is often spontaneous and distributed


at a local community level, driven by its own political convictions, independent from ruling power structures with the potential of growth and having an impact on society and social change. growers: people who seek to exploit digital fabrication in more ecologically oriented urban practices. guerrilla gardeners/gardening: the individual and collective activity of growing food and other plants in public spaces in the city without formal permission from the local authority or municipality.




habitus: a mindset involving organised patterns of thought or behaviour which is itself characterised by learnt and/or socially and culturally acquired tastes and behavioural orientations. [a]hack: is the result or outcome of a hacking activity to de-code or re-code artefacts or products in order to repurpose them. hackers: the term originated in the 1960s as a positive description of someone who was efficient and creative at computer programming by bringing together existing codes and creating new codes. Today it has positive and negative associations depending upon the purpose of the hacking and the perspective of the individual or organisation who has been hacked. Hacking can be for getting around or inside computer security systems, for solo and co-creation of new digital code and software, and for creating new software or hardware by amateurs, hobbyists or enthusiasts. Hacking is also applied to the de-coding and re-coding of artefacts or products. hackerspace: is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machinery, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet socialise and collaborate.+, hacking,hardware/software: building on the digital codes or technological product or equipment inventions of others to make them either better or to corrupt them. half-way: is a concept that invites the user to become part of the design process. Half-way items are designed unfinished by intention. The functionality of the item is achieved through the user’s input to complete the design and making process. haptic: any form of interaction involving touch, often making things more easily accessible and usable. Healthy Cities: a World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative to engage local governments in the development of better health through collaborative planning and capacity building in local communities. heretic: a person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted in a particular sociocultural or socio-political context. heteronomy: the opposite of autonomy; that is, being influenced or controlled by outside forces rather than being independent. holacratic model: a system of governance in which authority and decision-making are distributed amongst self-organising teams, rather than being vested at the top of a hierarchy.

idle-sourcing: crowd-based problem-solving by reducing the difficulties of making a contribution. immersive learning: refers to learning within virtual reality (computer simulated) environments where the learner takes on a role or adopts an avatar (digital identity) to directly experience and gain knowledge through experiencing the environment. It is also applied to intense learning experiences where the learner has to take an active role and participate in a direct activity such as making, playing or acting. inclusion: treating and welcoming groups or individuals with different backgrounds equally. information commons: see the ‘commons’. innovation: original new ideas that apply better solutions to meet new requirements, and that are successfully adopted by society; also see ‘social innovation’. integrated systems: when different systems are able to communicate with each other using a common framework, language and tools so their net effect is greater than the sum of their parts. Intellectual Property (IP): patents, copyrights and trademarks are all examples of Intellectual Property that is owned by the creators and can be exploited by them or anyone to whom they legally agree to give a licence, giving the rights of exploitation. inter-agent: a person or organisation that brings together people, resources, knowledge and technologies in imaginative and effective ways, often encouraging innovative outcomes. intercultural practice: any aspect of interaction between any culture; a dynamic and cross-disciplinary concept that focuses on the possibilities, potentials, conditions and consequences of intercultural exchange.

interdisciplinary: combining two or more disciplines into one activity, often leading to something new by crossing boundaries and thinking across them. intervention: disruptive public event, performance, installation or other activity drawing attention to a specific theme or issue.



l'hôte: a figure that is both guest and host at the same time (inspired by Michael Serres). learning experiment: a term to describe learning initiatives and movements around the world that experiment with new ways of exchanging, creating and distributing knowledge. liberal universalism: liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Universalism is a religious, theological, and philosophical concept with universal application or applicability. Liberal universalism is the belief that societies should be based on allowing all individuals the freedom to determine their own place in society. + libre, libre-license: is also known as ‘free-license’ is a term applied to a legal agreement to enable free use of digital source code for software. Some people prefer the use of ‘libre’ as it implies one is at liberty to use the code, whereas ‘free’, as in ‘free-ware’ means you don’t have to pay for it but you are not entitled to modify the source code. lifelong learning: self-motivated, voluntary learning and pursuit of knowledge by informal, formal, professional, solo and group ways to advance one’s own knowledge and skills as a means of personal development and contribution to our collective social wisdom. local creative hubs: a hub is a centre of activity or interest where people can gather, work and network. A local creative hub is a space (real or virtual), which offers a meeting platform for interaction between different actors to enhance their individual and collective creative action in a local territory. local experts: a term applied to people who live in a specific locality and, therefore, have expert knowledge of that locality relating to its history, people, ecology, culture or other aspects. local ‘transition’ currencies: there is a global movement concerned with how we change the energy plans of our towns, cities and communities in order to be independent from fossil fuel energy. This is known as the ‘Transition movement’. Part of their philosophy and practice is to re-focus people on creating a strong local economy, less reliant on imports. One of their strategies is to create alternative currencies which have a locally agreed exchange rate with the national currencies, having the local retailers and service providers give more generous pricing discounts to local products and services, thereby encouraging people to spend their money in the local economy. The first transition currency was the ‘Totnes Pound’ launched in 2007 in the ancient town of Totnes in Devon, UK. localism: a range of political philosophies that emphasise the local; localism generally supports local production and consumption of goods, local control of government, and the promotion of local history, local culture and local identity.+ locally embedded economies: local trade structures that often exist in parallel to the prevalent one, such as local currencies or neighbourly or community exchange of non-monetary services. low-budget architecture: buildings and such made from scrap, recycled and found materials, often constructed by non-professionals. low-threshold: also low-barrier; a term to describe the level of accessibility — a low threshold encourages a wider range of people to participate in activities. Lunch of Love: everybody brings one ingredient he/she loves dearly, from which a shared meal is prepared for everyone to eat together.

maker culture and makers: maker culture is a contemporary sub-culture representing a technologybased extension of do-it-yourself (DIY) culture. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-orientated pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3D printing, and the use of computer numeric controlled (CNC) tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts.+ makerspace: also referred to as ‘hackerspace’, or ‘hacklab’, is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machinery, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialise and collaborate.+ making: the act of bringing things, processes or experiences into being, often by creating physical or material forms through direct fabrication or crafting, or through the application of digitally controlled equipment. massive [online] collaboration: is a form of collective action that occurs when large numbers of people work independently on a single project, often modular in its nature. Such projects typically take place on the internet using social software and computer-supported collaboration tools.


Massive Online Open Course (MOOC): is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. Many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions between students, professors and teaching assistants.+ Minimum Viable Product (MVP): is the product with the highest return on investment versus the risk. It is a term frequently applied to new product development in the electronics, internet or information technology industries.+ multitude: a term for a group of people who cannot be classed under any other distinct category, except for their shared fact of existence; a concept of a population that has not entered into a social contract with a sovereign political body, such that individuals retain the capacity for political selfdetermination, after Spinoza and Hardt and Negri.+ mutual aid: a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit; a direct exchange is not necessarily asked for, rather it is about giving something back to the community at some point. mutual experiential learning: learning from direct experience and sharing those experiences with others in an open manner. Everyone can be a teacher or learner, or both, exchanging knowledge by listening, talking, doing and making. mutual learning: a learning model based on mutual respect and the dialogue between teacher and student, where roles are interchangeable and experiences on both sides enriching and transformative. mutualisation: is the process by which a joint-stock company changes legal form to a mutual organisation or a cooperative, so that the majority of the stock is owned by customers.+




n00b: also referred to as ‘newbie’, ‘newb’, ‘noob’, ‘n00bie’ or ‘nub’, is a slang term for a novice or a newcomer, or somebody inexperienced in any profession or activity.+ neighbourhood experts: see ‘local experts’. neoliberal, neoliberalism: was originally based on an economic philosophy of the 1930s trying to find a middle way between classic liberalism and collectivist central planning. It resurfaced in the 1970s as ‘laissez-faire’ economic liberalism, and finds expression in privatisation of national interests, free trade, deregulation, fiscal austerity and the reduction of government spending. Its main tenets are that personal liberty is maximised by limiting government control in the operation of free markets to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy. The term is often used today by opponents of these policies in a pejorative or negative way to describe today’s capitalist economies and their inherent unfairness to wider society.+ neoliberal consensualism: consensus decision-making underpinned by the neoliberal political economic theory which favours the maximisation of personal liberty through free trade and the market with minimal government intervention or interference. The neo-liberal approach to consensualism is often dominated by key decision makers in existing power structures and with vested interests of national governments and/or market actors. non-aligned social broker: an individual or organisation which is politically or socially neutral in a given context and therefore capable of acting as facilitator, mediator, translator or intermediary. non-violent communication (NVC): a communication process, developed by the American psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, based on the idea that all human beings are capable of compassion. NVC focuses on three aspects of communication: self-empathy, empathy, and honest self-expression.

online community: a virtual community whose members interact with each other mostly via the internet, therefore making internet access the primary and main barrier to become a member. open brand: a concept originated by Openwear, a platform for sharing open fashion designs, to demonstrate that the brand can be open and shared too. open data: is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.+ open design/open design movement: emerging in the 1990s, open design was defined in 2010 in the seminal book Open Design Now by Van Abel et al. as ‘design whose makers allowed its free distribution and documentation and permitted modifications and derivations of it’. Today, the open design movement embraces everything from 3D printing and digital fabrication technologies to basic ‘howto’ blueprints, patterns and instructions for DIY and DIT designs. It frequently involves collaborative designs and designing within specialist and/or generalist communities, from FabLabs to Maker Fairs and vast online platforms like Etsy and Instructables. open development, open economic development, open source economy: these are overlapping concepts underpinned by the ideas of openness, transparency and open source (see below) where hu-

man and economic development benefits from sharing our knowledge and intellectual property, not privatising and protecting it. These concepts challenge the accepted notions of private financial and intellectual capital, the exchange of labour for money and the constraints imposed by the privatisation of knowledge. They also suggest the expansion of the real life and digital commons, resources to be held and managed by everyone for everyone’s benefit. open education: is a collective term to describe institutional practices and programmatic initiatives that broaden access to the learning and training traditionally offered through formal education systems. One aspect of openness in or of ‘opening up’ education is the development and adoption of open educational resources.+ open hardware: hardware is the collective noun for the equipment operated by digital source code, the software. ‘Open’ means that the blueprints and other design details of the hardware can be accessed, copied, modified and distributed. The degree of ‘openness’ depends upon the exact conditions of the licence agreement. open knowledge: is knowledge that one is free to use, reuse and redistribute without legal, social or technological restriction. Open knowledge is a set of principles and methodologies related to the production and distribution of knowledge that works in an open manner. Knowledge is interpreted broadly to include data, content and general information.+ open learning: see ‘open education’. open process: a process-oriented methodology where the outcome is unknown and not planned in advance. open project space: is one in which living and working are combined in the same space. open seminars: open learning events to exchange, acquire and discuss knowledge in a small group. open source; open source development/internet/initiatives: Open source is a concept originally developed and applied to the development of computer software and the processes of being able to have access to, use and share digital source code for programming. Today the descriptor, ‘open source’ is being widely applied to everything from product design and hardware (the technical equipment on which software systems and applications can operate), to data, technology, politics and government. How ‘open’ the source is depends upon who holds the original code or data or content and the legal licences with which they enable people to copy, modify, share and distribute. Open source is therefore subject to varying degrees of ‘openness’ and ‘share-ability’. There are many initiatives around open source and it can be seen as a loose, but pluralist, socio-political movement with many initiatives which deploy ‘open source’ and other internet resources to contest contemporary notions of ‘development’. Open Source Ecology (OSE): a network of farmers, engineers, architects and supporters, whose main goal is the eventual manufacturing of the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS), an open source set of blueprints for essential construction, farming and technical equipment. open source movement: see ‘open source’. Our Commons: a re-positioning of the terms ‘the commons/Commons’ to remind people that we are not separate from our common resources but that they are multi-dimensional, omnipresent and that, by default, we are personally invoked in being responsible for their and our welfare. ownership: in the context of urban design and planning there can be many different kinds of people, representing themselves or groups, communities, enterprises and/or municipalities. Some of these will have direct ownership of land and resources, others will only have an ‘interest’ as stakeholders (see below), but all can potentially have some ownership of projects in public spaces.


paradigm: a distinct concept, model or thought pattern, often universally recognised and difficult to change. paralogy: a term espoused by the philosopher, sociologist and literary theorist Jean-Francois Lyotard to mean a ‘move’ that changes the rules of the game upon which the consensus was based. The strength and importance of the move might not be recognised until later. participant end-users: people who participate in the ideation, testing, creating, and ultimately using a designed product, service, space, building or experience. participatory: refers to a process or experience where people are individually encouraged to, and feel able to, contribute to a collective act. Participatory Design (PD): an approach to design attempting to actively involve all stakeholders in the design process to help ensure the results meet their needs and are usable. It was first recognised as a design approach in the 1960s in Scandinavia to help with the transition to more automated work practices in factories, but has evolved over the years to bring in expertise of professionals, users, customers and more recently citizens, to share their experience and generate more efficient and


meaningful solutions. PD crosses with other participatory design approaches and methods including user-centred design, co-design and open design. part-time employment: regular employment of less than thirty or thirty-five hours per week; reasons can be voluntary downshifting, family, or difficulties of finding full-time employment. Peak oil: from the late nineteenth century we have been extracting oil from finite global geological reserves. Experts estimate that we have now reached ‘Peak oil’ during the last decade. This is the point in time when the maximum rate of extraction has been reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline. As global demand for oil is still rising it is predicted that we will run out of oil sometime at the end of the 21st century. peer producers/production: people cooperate voluntarily on an equal footing, as peers, in order to reach a common goal and produce knowledge, goods and services together. peer-to-peer knowledge sharing/project: also known as ‘p2p’, a term that originated from distributed computer application architectures which distribute workloads between peers; this concept inspired new structures and philosophies in many areas of human interaction looking critically at authoritarian and centralised social structures. permaculture: is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature. It integrates the fields of design, architecture, ecology and hydrology to create regenerative systems of horticulture and agriculture modelled on natural systems with social structures. The term was coined by Bill Mollinson and David Holmgren in 1978.+ person-product attachment: refers to the bond which people can make with objects. This can occur for manufactured or self-made products and is the subject of investigation for the research area ‘design and emotions’. place-making: both a process and a philosophy for the planning, design and management of public spaces that emphasise a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential to create accessible public spaces considering people's health, happiness, and wellbeing.+ planned obsolescence: many products these days are still planned and constructed in such a way that they break after a certain time of usage without the possibility of repairing them. A typical example are printers that stop working after they have reached a certain number of prints. Planned obsolescence is essentially a marketing strategy for neo-liberal mass production industries. It ignores externalised costs, such as the environmental load and social costs of manufacturing in this way. plenary: a decision-making and communication organ often used in small communities to discuss bigger changes and issues amongst each other to exchange different perspectives to try and find consensus. politics and the political: the political philosopher Chantel Mouffe distinguishes between politics and the political. ‘Politics’ is seen as an ‘ensemble of practices, discourses and institutions’. This ensemble seeks to order, organise and develop the means to hold together a municipality, state or other organisation so they can govern. ‘The political’ refers more to our condition, ‘the dimension of antagonism that is inherent in human relations’, and the ongoing contest and discourse between conflicting forces and ideals. poly-centric governance: where the actions and decision-making of governing are distributed in many locations, organisations and individuals. popular education: a self-organised grassroots approach to education, of and from the people, where political change, critical thinking, cooperation and responsibility are the focus. Post-Normal Science: differs radically from traditional science in that instead of simplifying, it embraces complexity by examining all the contributing factors in capturing the essence of any issue; after J. Ravetz. poverty: while often defined in financial or economic terms, today it is generally accepted that the concept of poverty includes a relational mixture of economic, political, social and cultural factors, and, so, also embraces the idea of basic human rights, enshrined in the declarations of the United Nations. The rights to: work and adequate income; freedom of thought, expression and association; access to healthcare and education; and to maintain one’s identity and participate in a community’s cultural life. practical knowing: is expressed in the knowledge of how to do something, representing the acquisition of a skill or competence. It is one of the four ways of knowing in the field of co-operative enquiry; after P. Reason. precarious (labour/employment): insecure or unstable working conditions generate precarious employment and do not guarantee a stable income, health care, and so on. printers: 3D printers that allow laypeople and professionals to fabricate their own digital designs and ideas in three dimensions (3D) by gradually building up layers of synthetic or bio-degradable materials.


problem definition: refers to the way we articulate and define problems or challenges. The field of design brings visual and other processes to help perceive the problem from different perspectives. How problems are defined has a strong influence on the proposed solutions, which is why co-design (designing together — see above) can give robust ways to define or redefine problems. productive citizens: citizens who are allowed to participate in producing activities or things in order to contribute to the better health of society in general. prototype/prototyping: originally applied to computer and information sciences, engineering and design as a means of testing or experimenting with scaled-down or life-size material circuits, hardware, models or products. Nowadays it is also applied in public and private sector service design, and designing in community, social and spatial contexts. Prototyping gives invaluable feedback on the positive and negative aspects of a concept which has been materialised as a ‘one-off’ in real life. provocateur: a person who creates controversy and dissent in order to raise awareness, agitate, promote a reaction and/or stimulate discussion. public commons: see the ‘commons’. public domain: works in the public domain are those whose intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. Creators can choose to place their works in the public domain relinquishing some or all of their rights.+



re-design: the reconfiguration of what already exists, possibly by bringing in new ingredients and smartly combining them to create something new. re-use: putting discarded things and materials back to use, by re-purposing or modifying them. reality: the state of things as they actually exist, not as they seem or are imagined; everything that is, has been, or will be; also refers to worldviews and ways of perceiving reality differently. re-cycling: is the act of taking pre- or post-consumer waste and processing these materials by physical and/or chemical degradation in order to re-constitute and re-structure them as new materials. Re-use, in contrast, takes things and materials as they already exist. reddits/subreddits: is an entertainment, social networking service and news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links. Reddit entries are organised into areas of interest called ‘subreddits’.+ reproductive work: all the work that caring for, nurturing and sustaining human beings involves (giving birth, feeding, cooking, taking care of the elderly, and so on),which is usually unpaid and not accounted for in national economic systems and metrics. re-relationing: breaking down the old relations of a system and creating new ones. resilient/resilience: a term applied within ecological, sociological, psychological, organisational and engineering fields referring to the ability of a system to respond to disruptions by showing an ability to resist, respond, adapt and recover back to its original state. reskill: coined by Rob Hoskins from the Transition Town movement describing the re-acquisition of traditional skills and artisan knowledge which has been lost by individuals and communities. Return on Giving (ROG): while Return on Investment (ROI) is an empirical way of measuring the monies or finances invested against the financial return or gain, ROG suggests a qualitative approach to giving time, expertise, skills, knowledge, money or other resources for altruistic reasons, not knowing when or if you will get something back in return or gain in some way. ROG is an orientation towards investing what you have in individuals and society to create a greater social good.

safe space: a term for an area or forum where everybody is welcome and able to fully express oneself, where no marginalised group is supposed to face discrimination on account of biological sex, race/ ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, physical or mental ability. seed sharing: seed swaps are events where gardeners meet to exchange seeds, which can be arranged online or by mail, especially when participants are spread out geographically. An increased interest in organic gardening and heritage or heirloom plant varieties makes the concept more and more popular.+ self-empower: see ‘empowerment’. self-governed: having the right or power to be autonomous, not controlled by outside forces. self-sufficiency: a state of personal or collective autonomy, being independent of any kind of external support for survival. It also describes ways of living sustainably where only self-produced products are consumed. semi-open model: parts of the system are ‘open source’, so anyone can access and modify them,


and, parts of the system are closed, proprietary and cannot be accessed or modified unless access is authorised. semi-structured interviews: a form of interview in which the interviewer can digress and deviate from a formal set of questions set to obtain specific answers, in order to ask more open questions in response to the answers by the interviewee. sense-making: the process by which people give meaning to experience.+ sense of ownership: a term often used in the field of sustainable development and community projects where it is crucial to give people the feeling of ownership over a project that comes from the ‘outside’ by truthfully involving them in the process rather than handing over ready solutions that might not be theirs. service design: ‘is the activity of planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers. The purpose of service design methodologies is to design back and front office of services according to the needs of customers and the competences/capabilities of service providers, so that the service is user-friendly, competitive and relevant to the customers, while being sustainable for the service provider.+ sharing projects: are projects where sharing forms the core principle and activities by the people involved. Situationist: Situationist theory was first introduced in 1957 by the group Situationist International (SI) in Paris. They comprised avant-garde artists, intellectuals and political theorists who brought together these diverse fields into a comprehensive critique of advanced capitalism in the middle of the twentieth century. They objected to the tendency to mediate social relations through objects and saw the situation as a tool for the liberation of everyday life, a method of negating the alienation created by what is said to be our reality.+ Slow Food: an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986, promoted as an alternative to fast food, striving to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encouraging the farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem; first part of the broader Slow Movement, it has since expanded globally to over 100000 members in 150 countries.+ Slow Money: a movement that strives to accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration to enhance food security, food safety and food access, to improve nutrition and health, and to promote cultural, ecological and economic diversity.+ slow working: inspired by the ideas behind the overall slow-movement which proposes a lifestyle based less on material possessions and focusing more on life itself. When applied to work, it can mean spending less but more effective hours at work to have more time for family, friends and oneself, to be less alienated with work and to enjoy its processes and outcomes in a more balanced way. social cohesion: the social bonds linking one member of a group to another and to the group as a whole. The cohesiveness of a group depends upon components such as social relations, task relations, perceived unity, and individual and group emotions. social design: also known as socially useful design, socially responsible design, socially responsive design, social innovation design, or, design for social innovation. It encourages grassroots and community creativity and focuses on the satisfaction of human needs, local services, economic development and livelihoods often framed within local/national government agendas. It includes strategic design thinking, co-design and other processes aimed at participation, and it involves professional designers working with people who do not think of themselves as designers. social fabric: the basic structure or composition of a defined area or neighbourhood and its social links, consisting of its ethnic composition, age, culture, education level, and so on. It refers to intangible social relations but can be dependent upon tangible social infrastructures. social innovation: was recently defined by a European Commission study, in 2010, called The Theoretical, Empirical and Policy foundations for building Social Innovation in Europe (TEPSIE) as being ‘new solutions’ (products, services, models, markets, processes etc.) that simultaneously meet a social need (more effectively than existing solutions) and lead to new or improved capabilities and relationships and better use of assets and resources. In other words, social innovations are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act. Numerous definitions of social innovation include the idea that it is crosses different sectors (public, private, social, informal); is a sub-set of innovation, and distinct from business or technological innovation; has a product and process dimension; has particular stages and phases (from inception to impact); is context specific; is underpinned by values; leads to specific outcomes which are a measurable improvements on existing practices; changes social relations with regard to governance; and empowers beneficiaries by increasing their socio-political capabilities and access to resources.


social mapping platform: an online resource for collectively mapping data generated by the citizens who upload the content using easy-to-use digital tools. social reciprocity: describes the social interaction between people and how the behaviour of one person influences and is influenced by the behaviour of the other and vice versa. social sculpture: an extended concept of art advocated by the German artist Joseph Beuys, according to which art has the potential to transform society. Any kind of human activity having an impact on society becomes an artistic act, making all humans ‘social sculptors’ or artists and stressing the participatory role of every citizen in politics and art. social sustainability: the most recent thinking, adopted by the United Nations especially through their Global Cities Compact Programme, sees social sustainability as an interaction between four domains — the ecological, economic, political and cultural — and their stable interaction today and for future generations. However, social sustainability is a complex topic invoking a diverse range of terminology and embracing ideas of social capital, equity, justice, responsibility and support.+ socialisation of design(-ing): a phrase coined by Alastair Fuad-Luke to indicate that design, today, is being practiced by authorised (trained, professional) and non-authorised designers (other professionals, professional-amateurs, amateurs and citizens) across society. socially sustainable work practices: ways of working which recognise existing social structures and organising that strive to ensure equal rights and access to resources, to health, and to labour rights. They are socially sustainable practices if they aim to improve these rights, our quality of life, help build communities and their resilience and enable current and future generations’ abilities to adapt.+ sociocracy: a system of governance based on consent-based decision-making among equal individuals; rather than using the one-person-one-vote rule. Consensus is reached by reasoning together in the group until a decision is made. sociocratic model/sociocracy: is a system of governance using consent-based decision making among individuals and an organizational structure based on the principles of cybernetics where a transdisciplinary approach is taken to explore regulatory systems, their structures, constraints and possibilities.+ socio-ecological transition: societal change that considers the interdependency of society and nature; social development issues are explicitly linked to changes in the natural environment. socio-spatial practices: social practices that are specifically interlinked with the space that hosts or surrounds them. solidarity: is unity (as of a group or class) which produces or is based on unities of interests, objectives, standards, and sympathies.+ solidarity economies: alternative economic structures or systems based on the principles of solidarity, where members who have more contribute more in order that those with less also have access to resources; the idea of value is constantly negotiated amongst its participants. spatial agency: the idea that we can all bring change to our spatial environment by making design interventions. stakeholders: any person, group, community or organisation that has a share or interest in a project, enterprise or specific contextual situation. stewardship: an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources, to shepherd and safeguard the valuables of others; originally made up of the tasks of a domestic steward; today the concept can be applied to the environment, economics, health, and so on. subreddits: see ‘reddits’. support platform: a digital or physical platform for people to get together and exchange mutual support for any kind of project, need or development of an idea. sustainable design: design of products, services and buildings that complies with the principles of social, economic and ecological sustainability. See also, ‘Design for Sustainability (DfS)’. sustainable development (socially, ecologically, economically): a frequently cited definition of sustainable development was created by the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) and published in a report called Our Common Future in 1987, ‘Development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. It is perceived by some as an oxymoron but has definitely helped focus political and social debate on what kind of development might be more desirable for the near and far future. sustainable lifestyles: ways of living that sustain both the planet and its people for current and future generations. There are many tools to test your own lifestyle, such as measuring one’s ecological footprint, the amount of natural resources one consumes to maintain one’s life. sustainism: a term coined by Michael Schwarz and Joost Elffers in 2010 to embrace the way we are transitioning through collective culture by being more connected, more ecologically and socially


focused, and on being locally engaged. Sustainist design qualities are sharing, localism, connectedness and proportionality. synergy: from the Greek word synergia meaning ‘working together’. It is also an abstract concept that refers to a result that arises from interacting processes, but is perhaps better put by Aristotle: 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts'.+



talkoot: a Finnish word for neighbourly help, also known as ‘barn-raising’, where people get together for voluntary joint work efforts followed by a collective reward through hospitality and enjoying of the shared work performance. telos: a final end goal and/or goal-directed purposefulness. time as wealth: a concept about stopping measuring prosperity with financial wealth and instead starting to measure prosperity with time for oneself, after Frigga Haug. time banks: are where people exchange time and their skills or capabilities, in person/hours. It is seen by some economists as an alternative currency or complementary monetary system, but rarely features in mainstream economic analysis. In times of economic recession, where people lack money or other financial means, to exchange for commodities or services, people help each other by exchanging their time. Time banks provide organisational and management structures to formalise these time exchanges. A contributor to a time bank can accumulate time credits to ‘spend’ with other time bank contributors but will also gain social experiences and recognition in the community or groups he/she works with. time well-being: a term from social and economic sciences describing a kind of immaterial wealth related to time, including several dimensions: the dimension of individual time for oneself; sovereignty about one’s time; the subjective quality of one’s experienced time; and the integration in collectively experienced time. top-down: controlled, directed from the top level; term often used when decisions are made on the top of a hierarchy without asking people at the bottom for their opinion. transdisciplinary: refers to research, knowledge and ways of thinking and doing which cross and hybridise many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach and a body of knowledge which transcends the original contributions. The transdisciplinary approach is essential when confronted with ‘wicked problems’, after Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, which are complex issues which cannot be easily defined, have multiple and conflicting ownership and interests, and for which there is no final solution as the solution itself can generate further issues. transdisciplinary art: is using transdisciplinary research and methods (see above) to create artistic works which are generated by crossing and hybridising traditional disciplines or fields. transformational change: a process of change that demands both a change of mindset and behaviour by trial-and-error to an unknown future. Transformation Science/transformational thinkers: both these terms invoke the idea that direct insights bounded or anchored within existing conceptual systems and insights from other forms of consciousness are essential to generate new knowledge. Transformation Science, after Valerie Brown and John Harris, is an emergent concept which acknowledges that progression of scientific belief can come from other disciplines and multiple ways of knowing. Transformational thinkers challenge particular paradigmatic ways of thinking by mixing rational thinking with more imaginative, intuitive and creative ways of knowing. transformative learning: is about learning experiences that transform our perspectives leading to a changed understanding of the self, the revision of belief systems and changes in lifestyle, after sociologist Jack Mezirow. Transition Towns: is an international grassroots network and movement of people and communities founded by Rob Hopkins in 2006, which seeks to build resilience in response to Peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability. It is based on the principles of ‘permaculture’ (see above). transitional sites: sites in an urban location which are not assigned to a designated type of planning or use; these sites are often unused, abandoned, under dispute, or in the process of being re-assigned to an existing or new planning use. trial-and-error-system: an unsystematic method of solving problems, characterised by experimenting repeatedly in different variations, continued until success (or defeat).



Ubuntu: is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally ‘human-ness’ and is often translated as ‘humanity towards others’, but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean ‘the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity’.+ ultra-local: sometimes called hyper-local, is related to the concept of community production for mutual benefits to that community and ‘food miles’ where restaurants and shops limit their supply area to local ingredients to reduce the carbon footprint associated with more distant transport. Ultra-local finds expression in ideas of food, product and service provenance, where the exact origin is known and where the production and consumption is localised. unconference: is a participant-driven gathering that aims to avoid one or more aspects of conventional conferences, such as fees, top-down organisation, and pre-planned schedules of single-speaker presentations, in order to allow more space for discussion and a more democratically produced agenda created by the participants. upcycling: the process of converting waste materials or useless products into something more valuable for both the environment and people. It is different from recycling, which is often criticised as ‘downcycling’ old products to something with less value. urban agriculture: the diverse practices of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city to improve food security and community resilience. urban capital: the production and reproduction of relations within the neighbourhood that give a place its character. urban design and urban designer: urban design is the process of designing and shaping cities, towns and villages. Whereas architecture focuses on individual buildings, urban design addresses the larger scale of groups of buildings, of streets and public spaces, whole neighbourhoods and districts, and entire cities, to make urban areas functional, attractive, and sustainable. Urban design is an interdisciplinary subject that unites all the built environment professions, including urban planning, landscape architecture, architecture, civil and municipal engineering. It is common for professionals in all these disciplines to practice urban design and be urban designers.+ urban foraging: searching for and gathering ‘wild’ and cultivated food such as herbs, fruit and mushrooms, in public or semi-public spaces in cities. user-involvement: refers to ways of applying the experience of the ‘user’ of a product, service or experience to improve the creative process and, consequently, improve the final designs or outputs, for example, as in ‘user-centred design (UCD)’.

value: a relative measure or basis for action that can be personal, subjective, cultural, or economic. vernacular culture: the practice-based ways of knowing and being. viral replicability criteria: the term originates in the digital, online environment that specifications for a design can be very easily reproduced to make exact copies of the original. Blueprints and downloadable patterns encourage replication of real objects or products.

wiki: an online web application which allows collaborative modification, extension or deletion of its content and structure; typically, text is written using a simplified markup language (known as ‘wiki markup’) or a rich-text editor. Content is created without any defined owner or leader, and wikis have little implicit structure, allowing structure to emerge according to the needs of the users.+ work: every act that is aimed at achieving something; being active is work, and all of the things that are necessary in life. workshop model (for learning): a fixed-time period learning environment focused on the designing and fabrication of working products where everyone co-operates to meet the common goal of launching the product into the world.



thinking The diverse acts and practices of discursive activities, free association, ideation, inquiring, intuiting, philosophising, reasoning, reflecting, ruminating and synthesising individually and/or collectively as a means to nourish our human, social and other capitals.


Dr. Otto von Busch is a designer teaching at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm and Parsons the New School for Design in New York. In his research and practice he explores how design can be reverse engineered, hacked and shared among many participants as a form of civic engagement, building community capabilities through collaborative craft and social activism.



‘Hacking in the name of…’: Agents of Alternatives and Virtuous Vigilantes by Otto von Busch

Good political philosophy is not necessarily good moral philosophy. I. Murdoch1

Throughout the three popular Matrix movies a battle is waged between good and evil, humans and machines, combining religious motives with sub-cultural resistance against digital and post-industrial society. The movie by the Wachowskis is a goldmine of theoretical and technical metaphors, but I would like to highlight a specific chain of events that may open a route towards action for the design of alternatives. At the end of the first movie Neo, the main protagonist, learns to ‘hack’ the machines’ system, which is the manipulated version of our own shared world. He learns to see through the illusion to the deeper underlying code, he gains a critical perspective of the world and learns to go beyond the surface to control his environment and save his life from a hail of bullets. He emerges victorious from the battle against the machines; he is ‘the one’ who can hack into the corrupt code of reality. But, and this becomes the narrative of the sequential movies, as he hacks the code of the evil agent Smith he also releases him as an evil virus that gets to corrupt the overall system, even the world of the machines. With his ability to hack, his curiosity to manipulate the system, Neo opens Pandora’s box. His do-it-yourself capability to hack is in turn bent to release not only his own agency, but also the agency of [the] other. It releases more dubious and viral forces that use the new glitch in the system that Neo has produced for their own malevolent ends. Neo’s ethical hack, a means to fight back against the evil machine, in turn produces new evil ends. It is only in the final movie, as Neo uses his skills for a higher end to save the many, and ultimately sacrifices himself, that the evil and viral Smith is defeated. Neo opened the system for evil ends, and he had to pay the ulti-

1  Murdoch, I., 2001. The Sovereignty of Good. 2nd. ed. London: Routledge. p.79


mate price himself to restore order and save the outcome of his original hack. His destiny has, of course, many religious connotations, but the key issue throughout this reading is the concern about agency and empowerment. As designers hack into reality and bend the rules of the system in order to open new vistas of utopian practices, what other forces are released? Is there a systemic price for local design empowerment, unseen and unnerving consequences for disruptive design activities? And perhaps most importantly: In whose name do we work, and what distinguishes a design activist or an agent of alternatives from a virtuous vigilante using do-it-yourself agency to act outside the system which traditionally guarantees justification and legitimacy? The production of alternatives often manifests how the social endeavours of design are most often concerned with ideal situations where high-minded people come together to work in unity towards the common good. These do-it-yourself designers are the allies of Neo, opening new vistas for agency in systems that until now seemed fenced off. However, such ideal situations may be exceptions out in the “real world” where many forces, interests and values enact their own games of power and are invested in the status quo, even at the cost of others. But, as designers, we seldom experience the cruel reality, as we hide with our allies in design studios, classrooms or within the local communities of like-minded. It may even be so that it is the secluded space of the studio or local community that encourages or allows the visionary speculations of designers. As we roleplay in our scenarios and do our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analyses, there is a tendency within the design community to Design agency is avoid critical cynicism, as we are drawn to the dynamic, the possible, how the world ought to be. Design agency drawn towards utopia is drawn towards utopia, and even in its most “critical” approach, design most often plays in a safe moral and ethical space. However, as designers we may need to engage with the issue of realism, accepting that our creations live in a cruel reality of Machiavellian games. A designer may call out, “But we already work with reality! Our objects that are out there in the world are more real than your cynicism!” Here we witness the clash of two realities, a reality of substantial objects in the world on one hand, and the real outcomes of the intangible but highly real power games of humans on the other. Most often we don’t see the reality of disagreement or power games until they put highly material obstacles in our way, or intangible obstacles, such as non-cooperation, or the consequences of sabotage or vandalism. Political realism has a taste of cynicism in design circles, as design seems to cling to idealism, and a cynical realism may also be a position that undermines the imagination and agency. As most designers are trained to be diplomats of functional and material compromises, we usually think every problem can be solved and every oppositional issue concluded through compromise between stakeholders; we seek and take for granted there will always be a win-win situation. Yet, even if the designer makes sure the utopian proposal is both visionary and rational,


it is no guarantee that the users will choose the path of peace and prosperity, as political thinker Raymond Geuss warns, “there is nothing unreasonable about not wanting to be fully ‘rational’”.2 Thus the realist perspective spells out one of design’s fundamental challenges; how to be critical and realist at the same time as visionary and practical. As designers we will need to sensibly articulate how the new agency we produce may resonate with the idea of a shared “better place”. For example, how do we know it is better, and how can we assure others how to be critical and that our new micro-utopia is a better place for them than the current world, and even better realist at the same time as than “the good old times”? The road to a better visionary and practical place, or a modest utopia, is full of struggles and sectarian fighting, and part of designing is to actually produce prototypes which we may test, discuss and evaluate. Small-scale prototyping is at the core of the design discipline, adding small stepping stones towards the better. But others also use our stepping stones, and once they are laid out the road is open for everyone, kind or unkind, good or evil. This makes design politics not primarily about abstract principles, but about engaging with concrete power relations instead, and the stepping stones must be unbiased trials of concrete situations, not too tinted by the idealist ethics of the designer who refuses to see or hear any evil. Each step must clearly ask: who has power, for what ends do they use it, what asymmetries does it produce, and who suffers in consequence? Likewise, the new alternative must ask: how does this action redistribute power, for what ends, what new asymmetries does it produce, and who will suffer from this new path of action? This brings us back to Neo’s hack. He sees through the code and manages to manipulate the system to his advantage, he himself becomes a design activist or an agent of an alternative way through the system. Similarly, on a fundamental level, the design of alternatives concerns the question of agency: who has agency to do what and for what purpose? In Neo’s case the systemic enemy was clear, yet he produced an even worse foe with the glitch he created. In everyday democracy division of labour, chain of command, roles and responsibilities tackle the issue of agency. We are usually told to process our wishes through the “formal channels”. But as designers manipulate these demarcations and lines, agency is shifted around and new vistas for action are opened, but as a result roles, responsibilities and aims will be also blurred. New agency bypasses the habitual processes of legitimization. In our everyday life we usually do question the issue of legitimacy. Except for rebellious teenagers most of us follow our everyday habits, which are usually socially inherited traditions. In most western societies the procedures of democracy plaster a varnish of legitimization over any question that may arise concerning the legitimacy of our social organization, hierarchies and formalities that preserve its order.

2  Geuss, R., 2008. Philosophy and Real Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p.12


However, a government that makes good decisions, and justifies them by disseminating more goods to every citizen, may still be illegitimate. Even a system that produces more wealth and distributes it evenly for all may be financed in a corrupt way, marginalizing proportions of the population or leaving them voiceless. As political philosopher Ronald Dworkin reminds us, “A legitimate government must treat all those whom it claims dominion not just with a measure of concern but with equal concern.”3 This brings us back to the agency of the designer, how the hack displaces power and cultivates new capabilities to produce alternatives: how do we make sure this new agency is legitimate agency? As designers we need to ask ourselves more often, in what name do we appropriate new agency? How do we know it is for the good? How do we make sure it stays good and is fair to all? Most often though, we go for the easy route: we place our utopian practices into the marketplace of ideas. While we proudly proclaim our suggestion is virtuous and good, we simultaneously make sure we don’t push our ideas on people. They have to choose themselves and “consume” our alternative, just as if it was any other product of service – but our alternative is free! We thus try to legitimise our designated alternatives by making our users into customers who have the choice to easily opt out. We never truly believe our alternatives truly matter, that they are worth fighting for, or even turn into obligations. The marketplace of ideas saves us from asking truly tricky questions concerning the processes of legitimization. If our new agency is virtuous and legitimate, would we suggest our users have a duty to follow and obey? In an everyday understanding of democracy, shared governance is not only a matter of following procedures, but its laws must comply with values such as equality, human dignity and liberty. These values are all social, they gain their stature by being shared social goods and eventually connect to the ideas of civic virtues – values of human (and ecological) togetherness. how the ideas and Civic virtues are shared experiences, the ethical guidepractices of civic virtue lines that concern human togetherness. We know they are disseminated as a are civic virtues, as political philosopher Michael Sandel know a good in mode of togetherness notes, “when politics goes well, we can common that we cannot know alone”.4 of all citizens Similarly, the organization of our togetherness is not primarily guided by the government but by our own public lives, the public morality Sandel sees as “the attitudes and dispositions, the ‘habits of the heart’, that citizens bring to public life”. 5 That is, we should not only seek the morality of leadership,

3  Dworkin, R., 2006. Is Democracy Possible Here?. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p.97 4  Sandel, M., 1998. Liberalism and the limits of justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p.183 5  Sandel, M., 2010. “We need a public life with purpose”. Citizen Ethics Network. available at: p.7


but how the ideas and practices of civic virtue are disseminated as a mode of togetherness of all citizens. One typical channel of this dissemination is the world of design. Perhaps some forms of togetherness can be instrumentally beneficial to the aims of our alternatives, but they should perhaps also be part of a more broad endeavour towards human flourishing – or a strategy to limit the impact of the corrupting forces disrupting trust and equality. Yet, simultaneously, these types of virtues also acknowledge that human beings flourish in conflicting ways, as common experiences, spurring differences of opinion, contentions of values, forcing public domains that were before separate and distinct together into a shared public realm of uncertainty. But even from a realist perspective, we could highlight this as a chance to broaden human flourishing, and add diplomacy to the virtues of being social. How can we make sure the alternatives we produce may also be diplomatic testing grounds for conflicting civic ideals and interests? A basic start for the design of alternatives could thus be to see how each real design manipulation produces new civic ethics manifested as new power relations, and how these can be diffused into an equality of welfare, resources and agency. It is however very easy to fall into the trap of making one’s own particular interests seem universal. Nevertheless, one must start somewhere, and local ethics aimed towards a shared better place is a good start, but designers may also need to prevent the great evils of human existence: the risk that our experiments are hijacked by a regime of Machiavellian politics, or simply by the habitual rule of hate and greed, making our new agency into an arena of do-it-yourself vigilantism. Many small initiatives may turn into schemes that increase the power of the already powerful, or worse, counter-systems that encourage violent crackdowns, isolationism or extremism. In the end, most of us designers are idealists. Still we must, according to our best knowledge, safeguard our alternatives, try to avoid getting our proactive glitches infested by viruses. We must make sure our new agency promotes the virtues of an equally shared civic life: shared ‘habits of the heart’ that produce a new good we cannot know alone.


Emeritus Professor Valerie A. Brown AO, BSc MEd PhD is Director of the Local Sustainability Project, an on-going collective action program which has included over 500 governmental and non-governmental organisations and local communities on whole-of-community transformational change in Australia, Europe, and Asia. She is currently a Professorial Fellow at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University. Her twelve books include two with John A. Harris: The human capacity for transformational change: harnessing the collective mind, Routledge 2014; Tackling wicked problems through the transdisciplinary imagination, Earthscan 2010 and Leonardo’s Vision. A guide to collective thinking and action, SENSE 2006. Dr. John A. Harris BSc (Hons) MSc PhD has wide experience as a researcher, teacher and community activist in the fields of ecology, conservation and environmental education, with emphasis on the connections between theory and practice. His academic appointments include the University of Canberra, the Australian National University, Colorado State University, the University of Hanoi and the Australian national research hub, CSIRO. He is a co-author with Valerie A. Brown of Harnessing the Collective Mind and Tackling Wicked Problems and author of i.e. The Changemakers, 2009.



A collective mind for a just and sustainable future by Valerie A. Brown & John A. Harris

Transformational change: the time and the place The impact of human ideas on the Earth has led to the current era being called the Anthropocene (anthro being Latin for human) and the planet the Anthroposphere.1 These titles recognise the strength of the influence of the human mind on the state of the planet while acknowledging humankind’s continuing inter-dependence with the living and the non-living worlds. This is a time when the world is in the midst of social and environmental transformational change that could go in either direction, towards human extinction or a humane co-existence. There is a larger question than asking what sort of world we have now. It is: What sort of world do we want for the future? This then leads to a set of further questions that determine how we, humans, might act to influence that future. We cannot control it although we will certainly help to shape it.2 No single question directs the human mind, rather the capacity to reflect on the sum of the answers to personal, physical, social, ethical, aesthetic and sympathetic questions (Figure 1.).

Making full use of our minds: the ideas 7 ways of understanding

Personal experience Physical observations Social narratives Ethical principles Aesthetic patterns Sympathetic emotions Reflective synthesis Figure 1. Making full use of our minds: collecting the ideas.

1  The Anthropocene refers to what many natural scientists call the human-generated age. The Anthroposphere


With the hope of living happily in a just and sustainable world: 1. What are our personal expectations? 2. Is a sustainable planet physically possible? 3. Will that world be socially supportive of all members of a society? 4. Are there ethical principles that protect all members of a society? 5. Is it aesthetically satisfying for all the people so they fulfil their creativity? 6. Is there sympathetic understanding between people with different interests? 7. On reflection, can we collectively help shape a world that contains all of these? To answer all of these questions on any one issue is to engage one’s collective mind. It may be one mind, or it may be many minds bringing the answers to these diverse questions together. For both the individual and the group, the workings of the collective mind generate a fresh synergy for each issue, a synergy that creates fresh answers to old problems and allows all interests to work together. To answer these questions in working together towards a just and sustainable future lies in the face of previous practice.3 The dominant mode of inquiry for the three hundred years of the scientific era has been to reduce an issue to one question at a time, to draw on physical measures ahead of other evidence, and to select an expert to help with the ‘right’ answer. The transformational change that led to the scientific era was called the Enlightenment,4 from the focus of the movement to advance knowledge through scientific methods, Science and technology increasingly masked the understandings that came from reflecting on social, ethical, aesthetic and sympathetic understandings of the world. This line of thinking extended to the point where the thinking mind was regarded as separate from the physical brain. This supposed separation between the mind and brain has been rejected along with the emergence of the increasing interest in a collective mind that uses all the brain. The new multi-disciplinary field of neuroscience has used electronic tools to document the plasticity of the brain, with its amazing capacity to combine multiple ways of knowing.5 Thinking capacity is found to be generalised across the whole brain, with 95% of thinking taking place in the more-than-conscious zones, the zones of imagination, intuition and creativity.6 The transformational thinkers whose lives are discussed below demonstrated that it is possible to consciously use all the brain.

is the state of the earth generated during the Anthropocene. See Steffen, W., Grinevald, J., Crutzen, P. and McNeill, J., 2011. ‘The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, A. 369 (1938), pp. 842-867. 2  Brown, V. A., Harris, J. A. and Russell, J. Y. eds. 2010. Tackling Wicked Problems: Through the Transdisciplinary Imagination, London: Earthscan. Brown, V.A. and Harris, J.A., 2014. The Human Capacity for Transformational Change: Harnessing the Collective Mind, Routledge: London. 3  Brown, V. A., 2008. Leonardo’s Vision: A Guide for Collective Thinking and Action. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense 4  Editors’ note: The Age of Enlightenment was a cultural movement of intellectuals and revolution in human thought beginning in late 17th century Europe emphasizing reason and individualism to reform society and challenge established ideas grounded in tradition and faith. 5  Doidge, N., 2007. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. Melbourne, Australia: Scribe.


The quest for the nature of the relationship between individual human thinking and the thinking of their society continues. There is the tale of the king who ordered that a child be reared inside a well to see what language it would speak when it came up. This tale echoes the real life experience that any human being reared in isolation until the age of seven will never fully learn to speak or to respond to others. Interaction with others is fundamental to human existence. Where a collection of individuals engage in collective thinking, there is the potential to work in concert on the nature and direction of the transformational change in any particular setting.

The nature of the change: towards a collective understanding For most of the past three centuries of the scientific era there has been an expectation that science alone could determine and advise on what happens in transformational change. As the world has discovered, nothing could be further from the truth. There is now a widespread acceptance that any major change involves both social and environmental systems in a mutual interaction with highly unpredictable feedback loops. The options for change can be predicted and the outcome prepared for, while accepting that there can be no certainty about the outcome. Ways of thinking about the world have moved from considering the planet as a source of resources for humanity7 to a world in which the human self-organising system works in concert with physical and bimajor change involves both ological self-organising systems.8 The present generation is slowly realizing that while husocial and environmental mans as individuals and as groups can choose systems in a mutual interaction to change, they can never be independent of with highly unpredictable the interactions of the other two dimensions feedback loops of reality, the living and non-living worlds. Moving to a collective understanding of the mind has its own problems. The assumption that a mind is merely an inert product of its physical brain led to the same sort of error as assuming that mobility is located solely in the legs and sight in the eyes. In sight and hearing, as in thinking, the activity involves the whole person under the influence of their social and physical environments. Every four years the Paralympic Games prove that losing legs or eyes or parts of their brain does not pre-

6  Lackoff, G. and Johnson, M., 1999. Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic Books. 7  O’Riorden, T., 1971. Perspectives on Resource Management. London: Pion. 8  Bateson, G., 1979. Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. London: Wildwood House; Capra, F., 1982. The Turning Point: Science, Society and the Rising Culture, New York: Simon &Schuster; Lewin, R., 1993. Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos, London: Orion Books; Goodwin, B., 1994. How the Leopard Changed Its Spots: The Evolution of Complexity, New York: Scribner’s Sons.


vent individuals from choosing their own future and meeting the challenge of getting there.9 Whether in sport, economics or personal relationships, the challenge is to the society they live in. All members of that society need to access their full capacity to find support for their choices wherever it is regarded as benefiting the whole. The diversity inherent in bringing together evidence of all seven ways of understanding is the insurance that there will be a shared understanding of that whole. The hoped-for outcome is neither consensus nor the lowest common denominator. Nor is it free from conflict and uncertainty. It is that rich synergy of a collective understanding that enables a collective future. The nature of that future may be unknown to any one of the interests involved, until the collective learns from one another. Each individual in any group draws from their own experience, their knowledge of physical systems, the stories they learn from their social setting, their ethical values, their sense of the aesthetic, and their sympathy with others. Explicitly answering the full set of seven questions for oneself, by reflecting on all the practices of understanding, allows for a mutual collective understanding among a group or community (Figure 2.).

Making full use of our minds: the practice Understanding How Sharing

Personal introspection Experience Physical observations Ecosystems Social symbols Stories Ethical principles Values Aesthetic fit Patterns Sympathetic recognition Dialogue Reflective collage Meaning Figure 2. Making full use of our minds: collecting the ideas in practice.

A collective mind is radically different from a mass mind. The mass minds that drove the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979 and the Nazi movement of the midtwentieth century started with the idea that there was one definitive recipe that will achieve a predictable type of society. All other principles were treated as secondary. In a mass mind, many minds think as one and join in believing in a single solution, and so they are easily swayed in a single direction. Collective thinking, on the other hand, calls on both the open versatile mind of the human individual and the diversity of the minds concerned with the selected issue. The changeover of any society from one way of thinking to another is never smooth. The conservative old guard, with its investment in how things are now,

9 The Paralympics is an international sporting event held every four years involving athletes with a wide range of physical and intellectual disabilities in the same sporting events as the standard Olympics.


clings to its belief about how the world is, even in the face of new evidence and in spite of its own direct experience. The Inquisition refused to look through Galileo’s telescope, despite his pleas. Classic ways of blocking the new include denial, ridicule, distortion and the moral righteousness of those who believe that they own the truth. Responses to the predictions about global climate change are examples of all of these. People deny that changes exist at all ridiculing anyone who thinks they exist and distorting the evidence so that it appears to prove the opposite of the research. A new way of thinking collectively, answering the full suite of questions, can be undermined by natural caution, dislike of change, selfishness, the desire for power and resources, and just plain selfishness. Nevertheless it continues to exist. Examples of collective thinking arising in language, science, economics, education and everyday life are found throughout the literature.

The follow-on from the change: searching for wise sorcerers The question arises: How to explore the ideas and practices that best represent the emergence of a collective era? The Enlightenment tradition is to establish a timeline according to which each thinker builds on the What are needed are previous one. This ladder-like advancement of ideal prototypes for science is an artefact of the rules of science, it is not the way advances in thinking actually hapcollective thinking for pen. New ideas have frequently emerged after the time and place we being ignored or even rejected by the dominant are living in now tradition for centuries. Successful collective thinkers have merged from different times and places. Plato and Socrates are frequently exhumed from another era to support the Enlightenment. In a new tradition: How do we decide what is successful? Emblems of success such as winning the Nobel Prize, becoming a best-selling author, and rising to seniority in a profession are all rewards from a previous tradition. Nevertheless, iconic collective thinkers such as Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln and Leonardo da Vinci emerged in parallel to the mainstream in their own life and times. What are needed are ideal prototypes for collective thinking for the time and place we are living in now, prototypes that can lead to a just and sustainable future on this planet. Outstanding collective thinkers have catalysed the change from the Enlightenment to the Anthropocene. The following thinkers have been selected, first, because their transformational ideas contributed to our present understanding of how the world works; second, because the development of their ideas drew on the full capacity of the human mind and the whole of the human brain; and third, the stories of their lives offer entry to a fresh tradition, a shift to an era of collective thinking.


The search for those who meet these criteria found three sorcerers of the mind. They are Charles Darwin10 1809–1882, James Lovelock11 1919–, and Norbert Wiener12 1894–1964. While they were not connected in time, Darwin’s insights into continual evolutionary change permitted Lovelock’s idea of a self-organizing dynamic world. That world is now being refashioned through the fulfilment of Wiener’s prediction of the universality of the mental space of the World Wide Web encompassing the whole of the Internet and its network of electronic communication. Each of these masters achieved their insights through combining multiple ways of interpreting reality and answering the full range of questions that arose in their minds. Darwin’s ideas on human evolution, Lovelock’s on the planet Gaia and Wiener’s on the potential of cyberspace eventually led to dramatic changes in our understanding of how the world works. However, they did not do this unchallenged. Each of these three master-thinkers was, in their own time, regarded as a heretic.13 Darwin’s heresy for the time was that humans are subject to evolutionary change driven by environmental pressure, like all other living things. Lovelock’s was that the planet as a whole acted as a single organism, with all its life forms contributing collectively to its self-regulation and self-organisation. Wiener’s heresy was to predict that the space created by human minds themselves could provide the next setting for human evolution in addition to the living and non-living environment, and that this space would require a fresh system of ethics. Eventually these heresies overcame the opposition to become the emergent realities of the 21st century. The tale of the sorcerer’s apprentice14 helps us to realise the nature of the challenge posed in moving from the Enlightenment to the collective thinking era. Told in many versions since it was first written by Wolfgang Goethe in 1797, the story goes like this. A master sorcerer has learnt to prepare magic potions that lead to transformational change. He can turn lead into gold, a weak human into a strong one and a hovel into a castle. His foolish apprentice steals the magic mixture and tries to apply it. In inexpert hands the transformation becomes uncontrolled and then uncontrollable. The wise master struggles to halt the wild chain reaction that threatens everything around them. They finally succeed. The superior mind is, once again, in control and the over-ambitious apprentice is punished to make sure he never does it again. All is well. This old story has a new twist in this twenty-first century. All is not well. The master sorcerers of the technological era have lost control of their own inventions.

10  Darwin C., 1859. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle of Life. London: John Murray. Darwin, C., 1871. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: John Murray. Darwin, C., 1872. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, London: John Murray. 11  Lovelock, J., 1979. Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press. Lovelock, J., 2000. Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist. New York: Oxford University Press. 12  Wiener, N., 1948. Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Massachusetts: MIT Press. Wiener, N., 1968 (1950). The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society. London: Sphere Books. 13  Editors’ note: Heretic: a person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted. 14  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (German: Der Zauberlehrling) is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).


The capacity to release the energy in fossil fuels that had been stored for millennia, coupled with their own inventiveness has brought ways for humans to escape epidemic diseases, build great cities and live anywhere on the planet. Yet the same magical recipes have led to urban violence, disruption of the Earth’s atmosphere, a flood of disinformation, and a willingness to wage genocidal wars.15 In a reversal of the original story, it is the past master sorcerers’ technical inventions that are running wild. The use of those technological skills is tipping the world into dangerous climate change, global food insecurity and cities too dangerous to live in. It is up to the apprentices, the current and following generations that include us all, to find a fresh source of inspiration, rather than simply follow in their masters’ footsteps. The apprentices are faced with developing ideas that help to build a better world as well as to build on and control their previous masters’ inventions. A treasure hunt for those who can be helpful in making these changes produced fresh master sorcerers, their apprentices and visionaries who are looking beyond the present. The hunt found the three wise sorcerers Darwin, Lovelock and Wiener. Next come those who built on their work. Then there are the visionaries who had the ability and the courage to forecast where those changes might lead. The result is a pattern of ideas rather than a timescale or a single piece of history. Like all treasure hunts, the search follows an erratic path. Sometimes there is a direct link between ideas. In other cases, the thinker who takes an idea further has never even heard of, or may have even rejected the thinker they were following. In addition to those who have built the ideas of the world as it is now, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,16 Gregory Bateson17 and Christopher Alexander18 are visionaries who offer changes of mind that could help to work with, rather than against, transformational change. In the mid-1800s Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace discovered (separately) that the world is in a state of continual evolutionary change and that this includes the human mind. Contrary to conventional thinking, Darwin focused as much on collaboration as on competition as the guiding principle of evolutionary change, both physically and in the use of the mind. In his 1900s study of the planet’s chemistry, industrial chemist James Lovelock established that Darwin’s continually changing planet is made up of a complex web of self-organizing systems. In calling the system Gaia after the Greek goddess of

15  Annual books published from 1984 on the State of the World by The Worldwatch Institute document the effects of the technological transformations on the planet. 16  See de Chardin, T., 1975 (1955) The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper &Row, in which Teilhard describes the evolution of the Noosphere as a new sphere of human thought that is worldwide. 17  Bateson, G., 1972. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. St Albans: Paladin. Also see, Bateson, G., 1979. Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, London, Wildwood House. Bateson thought that reflection on the pattern that connects is more important that concentrating on the differences that divide. 18  Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., Silverstein, M., Jacobson, M., Fiksdahl-King, I. and Angel, S., 1977. A Pattern Language: Towns, buildings and constructions, New York: Oxford University Press. Pattern language is for anyone wishing to design and build at any scale, and also has been influential in software engineering physical and intellectual disabilities in the same sporting events as the standard Olympics.


the earth, Lovelock connected the biophysical planet with the human social, ethical, aesthetic and sympathetic systems that determine the future of planet Earth. Mathematician and child prodigy Norbert Wiener used advanced mathematics to observe the patterns that connect to predict the World Wide Web as early as 1940.19 He was the first to foresee the immense evolutionary potential of electronic signals as extensions of the human mind. Wiener also foresaw the ethical dilemmas20 that may arise when minds evolve under the influence of other minds in addition to the biophysical selection pressures. The three wise masters who shaped the world through human thought were each trained as scientists interested in physical observations, understandably, since that was the dominant way of thinking of their time. They were each equally at home discussing the social and ethical consequences of their work, appreciating the aesthetics of their discoveries in sympathetic collaboration with like-minded thinkers. Each had asked all seven of the questions posed at the beginning of this text, and the evidence from the collected answers led to a transformational change. They had each brought all the answers together, combining the evidence in a leap forward which transformed human thought. Collecting the evidence Personal: note own age, education, society, values Physical: measure, observe, describe, compare Social: explore myths, stories, icons Ethical: clarify different value positions Aesthetic: find patterns of sound, shape, space Sympathetic: recognise friendship, empathy, trust Reflective: consider systems, collages, symbols Figure 3. Collecting all the evidence: personal, physical, social, ethical, aesthetic, sympathetic and reflective.

19  The client and server communication language, Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http) was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee and laid the foundation for the successful development of World Wide Web. 20  Wiener, N., 1968 (1950). The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society. London: Sphere Books. 21  Transition Towns is an international grass roots network of people working for positive social change. The Transition Handbook: from oil dependence to local resilience (2008) and The Transition Companion: Making your community more resilient in uncertain times (2012) provide the guidelines for social change. Both are written by Rob Hopkins, Dartington: Green Books. 22  Healthy Cities is a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative to engage local governments in the development of better health through collaborative planning and capacity building in local communities. Governance for health in the 21st century by IIona Kickbusch and David Gleicher is available through WHOs regional office in Europe, see 23  The World Social Forum comprises civil society organizations endeavouring to counter hegemonic globalization while working towards a just democratic world of greater solidarity. 24  Brown, V.A. and Harris, J.A., 2014. The Human Capacity for Transformational Change: Harnessing the Collective Mind, London: Routledge.


Making the change: towards a just and sustainable future The inheritance of the master sorcerers continues. Transformation movements like Transition Towns21 and Healthy Cities22 at the local scale and international institutions such as the United Nations and the World Social Forum23 at the global scale are seeking a world inspired by the rich contributions stemming from the differences that create a society. Each movement implicitly answers the full suite of seven questions in pursuing their own area of interest. Each group is committed to transformational change being open-ended, interconnected and collaborative, valuing uncertainty and diversity. This has proved difficult to achieve in a world still giving priority to technological solutions, the key structures that specialisation and objective ways of thinking. go to make up a collective However, the world can no longer afford single perspectives, fragile consensus and partial solusociety are emerging tions either for individuals or for society. in practice On the positive side, the key structures that go to make up a collective society are emerging in practice.24 They include an inclusive language, re-thinking science,25 a direct democracy, reciprocal resource management, learning without limits and a collective identity.26 Once these structures are established, a society would be a different place from its previous state as a site for conflict and competition. Inclusive language will include the adoption of ‘and’ instead of ‘but’, and ‘both’ instead of ‘or’. Alexander’s pattern language already offers a vehicle for collective planning that all can share. Transformation Science27 heralded by Post-Normal Science28 will access evidence from all ways of understanding. Ailing democracy has a flood of defenders looking to reinstate direct democracy leading to Mindell’s deep democracy.29 With content readily supplied by efficient search engines, educational initiatives based on learner- teacher dialogue generate fresh and original ideas. Nobel Prizes have been awarded for resource management practices based on common pool resources such as oceans, finance and cities. Last, but certainly not least, is the

25  Nowotny, H., Scott, P. and Gibbons, M., 2001. Re-Thinking Science: Knowledge and the Public in an Age of Uncertainty, Cambridge: Blackwell and Polity Press. 26  Part II of Brown, V.A. and Harris, J.A. 2014. The Human Capacity for Transformational Change: Harnessing the Collective Mind, London: Routledge, is entitled Changing Society and addresses the key structures that go to make up a collective society. 27  Transformation Science: A science of change is the title, subtitle and focus of Chapter 8 in Brown, V.A. and Harris, J.A. 2014. The Human Capacity for Transformational Change: Harnessing the Collective Mind, London: Routledge. 28  Ravetz, J., 1999. What is Post-Normal Science? Futures, 31 (7), pp. 647–53 and Ravetz, J., 2005. A No-Nonsense Guide to Science, Oxford: New Internationalist. Post-Normal Science differs radically from traditional science in that instead of simplifying, it embraces complexity by examining all the contributing factors in capturing the essence of an issue. 29  Mindell, A., 2002. The Deep Democracy of Open Forums: Practical Steps to Conflict Prevention and Resolution for the Family, Workplace and World, Charlottesville: Hampton Roads Publishing Company. See also Palmer, P. J., 2011. Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, San Francisco, US: Jossey-Bass.


change in identity that comes from imagining oneself, not as a competitive, neutral, independent individual, but rather as a person who is part of a collective identity, similar to the African Ubuntu30 ‘I am I because of you; you are you because of me’. Each of the new wise thinkers has absorbed the full range of ways of experiencing the world into their thinking. Their courage and commitment carried them past the inevitable self-doubt and their peers’ negativity. Their times allowed them to experience the planet as a whole. Darwin was able to circumnavigate the world, Lovelock saw the first picture of Earth from space, and Wiener foresaw the technical capacity of cyberspace that set human minds free to work with each other. These thinkers lived in a world united by unprecedented global flows of people, information, resources and ideas: fertile ground for collective thinking and strong collaboration. They forged links between their own internal human mind and the external collective mind. Their work laid the foundations for a transformational change from the specialism of the Enlightenment to an era in which everyone can think with a collective mind. The transformative thinkers were able to simultaneously draw knowledge from, and to transcend, the disconnected stores of knowledge that existed in their time.31 Combining multiple sources of evidence was common Each collective thinker to the thinking of all three of the original thinkers of needs to learn from all the new era, of those followers who took their ideas others involved to further and of the visionaries who saw further again. optimise their learning In interpreting any transformational change, the task of the collective thinker is first to establish the identity of the thinker: Who am I? Then to ask themselves: What can I learn from physical, social, ethical, aesthetic, and sympathetic understanding of change? Only then is it time to bring the answers to all seven questions together in answering the reflective question: What is the collective understanding created from all this? Each collective thinker needs to learn from all others involved to optimise their learning. The power of collective reflection operates equally within an individual and among a group. The outcome is neither a single answer nor is it a fragile consensus. It is a strong mutual understanding, one that includes a respect for difference.

30  Editors note: Ubuntu: is a Nguni Bantu term roughly translating to ‘human kindness’. It is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally ‘human-ness’, and is often translated as ‘humanity towards others’, but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”. Source: 31  Darwin combined the field work of a naturalist with the empirical observations of a scientist, called on experts from many fields and occupations and crossed the barriers of religious, scientific and political thought. Lovelock opened up the planet’s place in the universe to both scientific and spiritual examination. In doing so he challenged the internal hierarchies of the scientific and religious communities of his time. Wiener was a polymath, contributing major discoveries to the fields of mathematics, philosophy, psychology and statistics in his leap into an as yet unknown future in cyberspace.


Conclusion The new generation of apprentice collective thinkers requires that we all accept the responsibility for becoming wise sorcerers in our own right. Throughout the treasure hunt for collective minds that makes up our 2014 book The Human Capacity for Transformational Change: Harnessing the Collective Mind, the collective mind has been treated as embracing the whole through seven different ways of understanding, including a reframed ethical system. Collective learning from drawing on multiple ways of knowing has been predicted to be the next step in the evolution of the human mind. The era of the collective mind is already underway. As the leading edge of thought, it is re-examining long-standing biological and social features of humanity and rethinking the question of what it means to be human. There can be a new freedom and dignity in the future of the collective mind. New ways of experiencing, knowing, being and becoming that can put humanity in reach of new kinds of worlds through a collective ethically-guided influence on inevitable transformational change.


Amber Hickey.

Amber Hickey is a writer, educator, curator, and PhD Candidate in Visual Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz. She published A Guidebook of Alternative Nows in 2012. Interviewed by KM.



Lending actions power through pages with Amber Hickey, editor of A Guidebook of Alternative Nows

Amber Hickey is an artist, researcher and book editor who has a special focus on art activism and is currently based in Santa Cruz, California. She is editor of the book A Guidebook of Alternative Nows,1 an inspiring collection of essays and case studies by thirty-four different contributors. We met Amber on Skype for an interview to find out more about her work, the book, and the unusual process behind it. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? I am an artist and researcher with a background in performance. I studied contemporary performance in Glasgow, Scotland for four years. The program was very politically engaged. We were strongly committed to the political implications of our creative output. Our art was activism, or at least that was the aim for many of us. While in Glasgow, I spent a lot of time doing projects outside of the university and I started curating very early on, although I didn't know at the time that was what I was doing. After finishing my Bachelor of Arts I decided to pursue my Master’s Degree in Curating in Zurich, Switzerland. I also worked at the Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts2 and I continued doing independent projects. For my final Masters’ project, it made sense to do something I had wanted to do, for a while, the Guidebook of Alternative Nows. How did you come up with the idea of the book? Why do you feel there is a need for a book such as this one? I had been reading a lot of work that was critical of aspects of contemporary living — our economy, the way we interact with our environments and so forth. It

1  Hickey, A., 2012. A Guidebook of Alternative Nows, Los Angeles: Journal of Aesthetics & Protest Press, see also (free PDF download ) and 2  Since 2007, the Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts (ICS) is an acclaimed centre for the analysis, theory, and history of culture in the arts. Further info:


all became very repetitive to me and I was questioning the effectiveness of such criticism. Then I came across JK Gibson-Graham's The End of Capitalism (as we knew it).3 They propose that by criticising capitalism (or other dominant modes and structures) we are in fact lending it more power. So I thought that rather than making a project that is simply critical, I would attempt to highlight that which is different and hopeful, therefore lending those actions I attempt to highlight power by lending them pages. That's the methodology that which is different behind this book. and hopeful There is a lack of published material about this kind of work by the people who participate in it. Often, researchers write about these phenomena, rather than the thinkers and makers themselves writing about their work in their own words. Of course there are exceptions. Regarding the format of a book, I'll readily admit that I'm not the biggest fan of exhibitions. There were many reasons why I felt like it was more appropriate to present this project in the form of a book. I wanted people to have something they could take home and have a direct relationship to. Something that they would continue coming back to over the years. The book aims to shed light on different iterations of more socially, economically, and ecologically ‘just nows’. It was not my editorial aim to define these nows according to their fields. Instead, it was more about alternative nows in a broad sense, which is open to many areas. I wanted the book to be inviting to diverse publics and therefore did not want it to be too dense with theoretical chapters. However, I wanted there to be enough strong writing to support the ideas contained within the book. Rather than divide the chapters into strictly defined categories, I decided on the placement of the chapters by imagining interesting ways to order them if they were read in succession—if they were read as a story. Of course it's fine to read them in any order, but I chose the sequence of chapters because of the pictures they create when they are sitting next to each other. Each chapter complements the chapters it is sandwiched between in surprising ways. How did you choose and curate the contributors? How did you approach them? Was it difficult to get people involved in the project? Many of the people who contributed to the book are friends or friends of friends. And I'd say about half of them were suggested by other contributors. So, even though I didn't invite every person who others suggested, in a way the book was co-curated. I also contacted people whose work I knew from before. I was pleasantly surprised that most replied positively and contributed!

3  Gibson-Graham, J., K., (1996) The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy. Oxford UK and Cambridge USA: Blackwell Publishers. J. K. Gibson-Graham is the pen name of Katherine Gibson and Julie Graham, both feminist economic geographers. In this book, J. K Gibson-Graham ‘explores the possibility of more enlivening modes of economic thought and action, outside and beyond the theory and practice of capitalist reproduction’. (from the back cover of the book)


Launch in Copenhagen at PB43 with talks by Brett Bloom (Temporary Services), Eva Merz (New Social Art School), and Rori Knutdson (School of Critical Engagement), 22 September 2012.

When and how did you launch the book and how was it received by the public? The book was published in June 2012. There were a few different launches. One in July at the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, one in August at Josefwiese Park in Zurich, one in September at PB43 in Copenhagen, and one in November at Forest Room 5 in Denver. I had sent out emails to the contributors inviting them to organise local launches, and that's one of the reasons why we could do so many. I've heard mostly positive feedback about the book. People really seemed to connect with the aesthetics of the book and that drew them into the content. They liked that there were two alternative versions of the cover and the playfulness of the stickers and badges. Solidarity economies and mutual aid were very prominent topics throughout the book and that was often perceived as a highlight content-wise. I wanted this to be a project that my family could connect with too. I wanted it to be a very grounded project that many people could get something from, rather than mainly people from one demographic sector or field. When it came out my dad read the entire thing. We had some great conversations about the concepts and projects within the book—he particularly enjoyed Billy Marks' chapter, ‘Cipher: The Economics of Freestyle.’4

4  Hickey, A. ed. 2012. A Guidebook of Alternative Nows. Los Angeles, USA: The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press, p.131.


There was one negative review that I found. It was by a woman at an art journal, who I'd been in touch with briefly. She'd requested a review copy of the book and I had somehow missed her email and didn't get back to her for awhile. Anyway, it wasn't all bad, but her main criticism was that the book focused on alternatives only accessible to the privileged. It's an interesting comment because I see solidarity economics for instance as completely necessary whether one is privileged or not, but more-so for those in precarious situations. I can understand how she saw that in some of the contributions, but certainly not the majority of them. Regardless, it's always helpful to get some constructive criticism and I appreciate her point of view. We saw you financed your first print-run with Kickstarter – how did that come about? I liked the idea of the funding being a collaboration too. It helped a lot to already have all the contributors on board because they shared the campaign with their friends and colleagues. So there was a large network of support already in place. I believe that's one reason we managed to collect $6000 in such a short amount of time. I think it's good that our funding process compliments the content of the book. From your experience, what advice would you give when it comes to producing a book? It's always more expensive than you think it will be, and that can create stress if you're not prepared. For example, the shipping was very expensive. Each copy was also quite pricey because it was important to print them in colour and to produce the stickers. The book also became much longer than expected because people wrote more, and I didn't want to limit them. In the end, we printed 300 books which are now almost sold out. So in terms of advice, I think that would depend on your goals. You should always budget more than you expect to spend. In the case of A Guidebook of Alternative Nows, we have a project account where all the money from book sales is deposited. When all books are sold, the money will be split amongst the 39 parties who were involved in the book. You collaborated with the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest Press (JOAAP) when it came to publishing the book – why and how did you choose them as publishers? How was your experience of working with them? I had known about the JOAAP before, some friends of mine had written for them and I liked their publications. I was already about half-way into the project when, luckily, the editors, Mark and Christina, happened to be in Zurich, where I lived at the time. I met Mark at the Cabaret Voltaire. I explained the project to him and showed him what we had so far, a draft of the design, and so forth. Mark and Christina were very open, they didn't control anything. They were casual conversation partners who helped with things such as getting an International Standard Book

5  Scripps College is a Women’s college in Claremont, USA. Further info:


Number (ISBN), giving feedback on the cover and things like that. And of course they contributed a chapter as well. When the book was done, they sent the news out to their list. It was great to work with a publisher that I could trust. It made the process much easier and more supportive. The other day, I checked the book project's website and noticed you have also been giving guest lectures on the book in universities in the United States – how did that come about and would you mind telling us more? Oh yes, that is a very good question! Somehow, the book made it onto several reading lists of universities, I guess because many of the contributors also teach and perhaps recommended it to their colleagues. I was very pleasantly surprised about this and pleased that the book would reach that context. I gave guest lectures at different universities, such as Scripps College Claremont5 where I was invited to speak for a class called United: Women's Work and Collective Action. In these talks, I always try to share the process behind the book and emphasise why collaboration is an important mode of working. I realised very quickly that you cannot assume that people are already up to date on the topics within the book; for some people it was an entirely unfamiliar idea that there could be an alternative to capitalism. So for some people it was an speaking in educational contexts rather than art contexts entirely unfamiliar idea presented new and interesting challenges. Then again, there was a woman in the class I lectured for at the Calithat there could be an fornia Institute of Integral Studies6 who was already set alternative to capitalism on integrating solidarity economics into the curriculum at Waldorf schools.7 One thing I tried with students during a talk at University of California Santa Cruz was to engage them in the topic by first doing an exercise asking what alternative nows they know of, have seen, or have participated in. What are you working on right now? Are you planning to continue with activities connected to the book? Currently, I am working towards a PhD in Visual Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz. The structure is quite different from what I am used to. We need to go through two years of core curriculum before being able to focus more on our own research projects. I had the experience of having a lot of freedom in my first two degrees, so maybe this will be a good exercise. I am considering producing a second edition of the book. If that happens, I would expand the introduction and maybe work with a distributor to reach out to more

6  CIIS is a ‘creative, curious, mindful, and socially aware’ educational institution in San Francisco. Further info: 7  ‘Waldorf (Steiner) education is a humanistic approach to pedagogy based on the educational philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy’. The educational philosophy’s overarching goal is to develop free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence. Source:


people with the next print run. There were bookstores that we could not work with this time because they could not agree to the profit sharing model. If we print a second edition, everyone will already have been paid so we can focus on sharing the book with more people and be more flexible with how it's sold. I am also working on an online archive which will map alternative nows globally. I'm also involved in a new group called the UCSC Global Nuclear Awareness Coalition,8 which will publish papers and host local events relating to the politics of nuclear weapons and energy. There are many things in the works, but unfortunately people also need to sleep, so it's impossible to do everything you'd like to do at the same time! (laughs) Definitely true! Thank you so much for your time and availability for this interview. All the best for your studies and projects! My pleasure, thank you.

Guidebook of Alternative Nows, front- and backcover.

8  The Global Nuclear Awareness Coalition (GNAC) was formed by a group of scholars at UCSC to better understand and communicate issues related to nuclear power, energy sovereignty, and indigenous knowledge. It plans to share information about research with the greater Santa Cruz community regarding the future of nuclear technologies.


Launch in Los Angeles at The Last Bookstore with talks by Fallen Fruit (David Burns, Matias Viegener, and Austin Young), the Llano del Rio Collective, Watts House Project, The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Billy Mark, and the Artist Bailout, 27 July 2012.


The two teams of Democratic Europe Now and of Northeastern Transeuropa Caravans on their way to Poland. © European Alternatives.

Daphne Büllesbach is one of the directors of European Alternatives and co-founder of the Berlin branch of the organisation. She plays an active role in the yearly Transeuropa Festival of European Alternatives and is particularly interested in developing an organisation that connects politics to grassroots ideas and initiatives. Previously, she worked in social science research and the evaluation of government programs. After her studies in Social and Political Science in London, Cambridge and Paris, she worked in international humanitarian development organisations in Belgium, Kenya, Morocco and Argentina. Luisa Maria Schweizer, born in 1984, is an anthropologist and activist based in Berlin. She studied Cultural Anthropology and Modern German Literature and attended a Masters programme at Humboldt University in the field of Anthropology / Europeanisation. She was member of the research project Other Europes / Europe’s Others: Social Imagination in transnational movements and urban public spheres of Prof. Dr. Regina Römhild. Today she works as a social campaigner in the field of political education and is chairwoman of European Alternatives Berlin. Interviewed by KM.



European Alternatives with Daphne Büllesbach & Luisa Maria Schweizer European Alternatives Berlin

European Alternatives (EA) is a transnational organisation and network whose mission is to promote 'democracy, equality and culture beyond the nation state'.1 On a dark February evening, we met up with Daphne Büllesbach, Citizenship and Democracy Director at EA, and Luisa Maria Schweizer, City Coordinator of the local Berlin chapter of EA. Daphne has a background in political science and European Studies, Luisa studied anthropologist. Both co-founded the Berlin group and were happy to tell us more about their current activities, motivations, missions and goals with EA. How did you guys get involved with European Alternatives? DB: I studied with one of the founders. Back then, it didn't exist yet but I knew Lorenzo Marsili, one of the co-founders. By chance, I was actually in Kenya at that time, when I received a newsletter where EA was mentioned. I stumbled upon my study colleague's name thinking, hey, I know this guy! I checked the website and saw the open call for participation for the foundation of the Transeuropa network. This happened back in summer 2010. That's how I got involved with it. It's been around three years now, I was elected Co-Chair of the Cooperative (the grouping of all city coordinators) and I sit on the trans-national board of EA. And for the last 6 weeks, I have had a full-time position with them! LMS: I also got involved via the university. I was part of a research project called Other Europes2 and it dealt with imagining new spaces with urban actors and such. During my research on the agency of non-governmental organisations within the EU, I came across European Alternatives. I contacted them for an interview and first I got involved with them as a researcher, conducting interviews, participating in their meetings to do participatory observation and writing about all of it. During all of this time, I had difficulties to draw a line between doing my research and getting involved. After the project, I just continued attending their meetings and

1  More info: and also 2  More info:


stayed involved ever since. I am on the board of the Berlin association and also a founding member, but I have never had a paid position. When did you become a formal association and why did you decide to organise yourselves formally? If you want to take DB: We formed the association in summer 2012. It bigger steps with a group, was a process of one and a half years, it took ages! you need a structure We took this step out of pragmatic reasons. If you within which to move want to take bigger steps with a group, you need a structure within which to move. LMS: To apply for funds, you usually need to have a formal structure around it. They won't give money to Hanni Müller.3 (laughs) How is European Alternatives structured in general, being a larger international network with many local groups across Europe? DB: The basic idea is the Transeuropa network,4 which was initiated in 2010. People were either asked directly to join or joined because they got to know about it by chance, as I did. At some point, we had representatives of EA in eighteen cities all over Europe with local groups around them. Some of them institutionalised themselves, such as the groups in Barcelona, Amsterdam and Berlin. There is EA Ltd., the mother organisation based in London where it was founded in 2007 (with the idea of running the London Festival of Europe — the predecessor of the subsequent Transeuropa Festival), followed by the formalisation of the groups in Paris, Rome, and Cluj-Napoca. Those are the four original cities in which the Transeuropa Festival5 took place twice before becoming bigger and more known. When did the first Transeuropea Festival take place? DB: The very first one took place in London in 2008. Then, in 2010 and 2011, it was organised in the four cities mentioned above. The festival in 2012 was the first very big festival with around twelve participating cities in which we also took part. And that was the first time the international outreach was enlarged... LMS: Exactly. DB: It is one of the founding principles of the two co-founders Niccolo Milanese and Lorenzo Marsili. The two were living in England then and were worried about the Europe-sceptical tendencies that were developing at that time. They had the

3  German synonym for the ‘everyday man’, such as John Smith and Joe Bloggs. 4  The Transeuropa Network includes local groups of activists and members working together on the emergence of a new European politics, culture and society. More info: 5  Transeuropa Festival: ‘Transeuropa Festival is a unique transnational festival of culture, arts and politics, taking place in 13 cities all over Europe. Through a series of linked practices, events and discourses – from panel discussions to performances, video screenings and forums – it produces a shared and collaborative space, to promote an alternative idea of Europe.’ Source:


Theatre and performance art during the Transeuropa Festival in Lublin. © European Alternatives.

exact opposite opinion and wanted to create something to oppose these developments. By weaving-in artistic elements and formats, they wanted to reach out to a large number of people. They were very successful with their concept in London. When the support from the British Council and the German Goethe Institute was confirmed, they knew: “OK, let's do it”. That's how European Alternatives came into being and it's been growing ever since. What happened during this first festival? DB: Good question, I wasn't there yet! (laughs) It was probably not that different to what is happening these days. There were classical debates about topics that we're discussing today. For example, the question of how England positions itself towards the EU. I studied in London myself and I have to say that it's quite rare to find people who openly declare themselves as Europe-friendly. It's interesting that EA found its starting point in London, while becoming so important in other European countries. What's the background of its founders? LMS: Lorenzo is Italian and Niccolo British, from Wales with Italian ancestors. They both were really young when they founded EA. Lorenzo is only turning thirty this year, and Niccolo 29, so they were around 22, 23 back then. How do people know about European Alternatives, how do you attract new members? Do you have a certain strategy of getting people involved? LMS: There are always some people interested in our activities and we usually invite them to our meetings. At some point, we were drowning in work and wanted to get more people to join the team, so we organised an info night where we invited people via different mailing lists and social networks. Around 25 people showed up, which was a good number of people. For us, it is always a good way of structuring


our own work, of presenting ongoing projects and such. Sometimes, people from our networks also come up to us and say: “Hey, I've got a friend moving to Berlin looking for meaningful projects to join, could he come by?” DB: It has always worked quite well with our group in Berlin, I don't think it's like that in all of the other cities. Berlin works quite well in comparison to other groups that struggle to find enough volunteers because it’s a city people often move to to find new projects and inspiration.


That would be my next question: how do you keep people on board? DB: Engagement strategies, the big old question! Well, clicktivism6 for example would be pretty much the opposite of what we do — we don't want to simply activate people, we also want to interact on an interpersonal level to empower them. I believe we've managed quite well to establish these kinds of contacts. Of course, this requires a lot of engagement and time. Our main strategy is to offer interesting projects where people can get involved, such as the festival. It's a recurring event which always gets people excited. Of course, it will be difficult to keep people's interest up until the next festival in 2015 with a break in 2014, but it has worked quite well over the past few years. Members can also suggest something and participate with their own ideas during meetings amongst our various local groups. So far, these ideas have been traveling and were communicated quite well amongst our network and the employees of EA – don't you think, Luisa? LMS: Of course, one tends to have the ideal that all people are as enthusiastic as oneself and are as happy to participate and contribute in the same engaged way as one is. This ideal is naïve. It does not work out in most cases. People are always subject to changes in their life circumstances, such as having a high workload in their studies or workplace, getting pregnant, losing interest and such. I believe the trick is handing over ownership to people by giving them the possibility to become part of the project. If you bear responsibility, you become irreplaceable. This is really crucial. We already had people come by trick is handing over and you could immediately tell they had no genuine ownership to people interest, but an engagement motivated by polishing by giving them the their CVs. This is not the idea.

possibility to become part of the project

I agree about the sense of ownership being crucial to any kind of work. European Alternatives is basically offering a platform to turn project ideas real. DB: I think this is our formula for success. It gives us the possibility to get people's commitment. The two of us got engaged with EA in a similar way – we wanted to start a project and needed to found an association in order to do so. Last year, we

6  Clicktivism describes internet activism, often criticised as lacking actual engagement with real-world issues.


filed an independent project application for which it was really useful to have EA in the back. Applying for grants as an individual is almost impossible. It works in both directions: we need the organisation, and the organisation needs the ideas. Of course, there can be dry seasons without anyone wanting to commit. LMS: It's something we're trying to sell all the time – the possibility to turn your ideas into reality, being supported by a basis of knowledge, hunger for activism, enthusiasm to change something... Being able to pitch your idea and to find people by articulating your thoughts and develop them further, using the Europe-wide network is a rare opportunity! Sure, it quickly becomes boring if this opportunity is not taken. The projects you're currently working on, are they all being realised network-wide or do they depend on local groups? DB: Both. For example, the project Making a living7 was initiated by a guy in London. By spreading the word in the whole network, other groups joined the project as well. This was basically a peer-to-peer project because they didn't need the organisation. The project only happened through the support of the network. Therefore, the concept that ideas spring from the network is really important to us. We put a lot of energy not to lose this potential by keeping people motivated to be part of it. It's also motivating to see things happening in the individual local groups if it's well communicated. LMS: Yes, definitely! It's much easier to contact a local group in Bulgaria, for example, if I know what they're up to. We all share a common basis, therefore it's easy to cooperate over the distance. It's almost like a family spread all over Europe... DB: It sounds quite simple, but if you think about it there are not many organisations that invest such amounts of time and resources into their networks. When I was working for another organisation, we always struggled to find partners in other countries to collaborate on transnational projects. This is never a problem with EA. Don't get me wrong — we're not a network to file successful grant applications, but the people in the network are a real treasure with potential for continuous growth. I am curious myself to know how it will all continue, especially with upcoming generational changes. Myself and all the others still belong to the first generation, but what happens when all the people who built up the whole thing leave? How do you communicate within the network? Are there regular physical meetings? LMS: Mainly, we communicate via email and Skype. The members are informed through newsletters and such, through which also non-members are informed about events and projects. When I started with EA, we met around 8 times per year somewhere in one of the participating cities to work together over a weekend. I find these physical meetings very important because you actually get to see people


and have a direct and more engaging contact. You work a lot more effectively faceto-face than over distances. How many people are employed with EA and how do you manage financially? DB: We are around eight to ten people, not all of them are working full-time. How do we manage financially? In short: through successful grant applications! Niccolo and Lorenzo are real champions with this, otherwise we would not be where we are today. Of course, the project is great as well. So far, most money came from the European Union Commission, open calls to which we respond. But we also get quite a bit of private funding from foundations, such as the Open Society Foundation8 for example, or the European Cultural Foundation.9 All the employees are included in the challenge of finding new money sources. My salary is only secured until October. It has always been a bit like that though. Somehow, it has always worked out so far. Of course, it's all a bit insecure because of the dependency on grant givers, not producing our own profits. So most of the time, people are volunteering on the side of a paid job, which of course is not the ideal scenario, making people's commitment subject to life changes as you have said before... DB: Yes, that's true.

Consultation on Roma rights for the Power People Participation Project in 2011. © European Alternatives.

7  More info: 8 9


With your mission, you try to be open to all – do you still have some sort of target group or specific people you are trying to reach out to? LMS: We don't have any target group. Yet, we always reach a certain group of people: academics, people between around twenty and thirty-five years old. We are aware of that, but it's not our goal. We try to deal with this fact. One challenge for example is language — when there is a presentation, it should be in German, otherwise local people would not be able or attracted to join. On the other hand, it immediately becomes exclusive for those who don't speak German. It's difficult to deal with such things. DB: We try to be inclusive and participative at all times. For example, when we speak about Roma rights, we have to include those people who are directly affected by such problems and therefore speak with them, not just about them. We organised round tables in order to create the Citizens' Manifesto with the idea in mind that participating has to have very low barriers, otherwise minorities would not be interested. It has worked really well; in Bulgaria and Romania, we had citizen tables with locals actually participating. When it comes to target groups, a lot of grant givers always complain that we are a multi-issue organisation. They ask us to concentrate on one topic to make everything simpler. We always insisted on being a multi-issue organisation though because our overarching mission of ‘equality, deour overarching mission of mocracy and culture beyond the nation state’ ‘equality, democracy and culcannot be reduced to one topic. All the topics we're dealing with are interconnected. It's also ture beyond the nation state’ about creating a post-national construct. We cannot be reduced to one topic need to think about what this could actually look like. There are lots of people writing and thinking about this as for example Robert Menasse, or the Young European Federalists (JEF). Our mission is relatively radical and wide with no specific target group and we address many issues. It allows you to react quickly on current and ongoing topics. DB: Exactly! LMS: Yes, I agree with all of that. Still, I sometimes find it difficult. I understand the claim of EA to only be able to achieve our mission as a multi-issue organisation. At the same time, it becomes difficult to be an expert in all of these areas. It would work better if there was an overarching organisation with lots of small ones underneath, all being experts in their respective fields. I sometimes feel like I'd like to express holistic views on everything, but I also know there are certain areas that are just not mine. DB: This is exactly the founding thought of our organisation and our founder Niccolo; exactly because of this, we cannot turn into a single-issue organisation. The idea is that every citizen should be able to express an opinion — being an expert or not. People should always have the possibility to express themselves and feel empowered to do so. EA aims to empower people to express their opinions on political


issues without having studied political science. None of us feels like an expert on all of these issues — but maybe that's exactly what we need to free ourselves from. We can sit at a round table and talk about Roma issues without being well-versed in the topic simply by expressing our opinions. It's all about participating, not about being an expert in order to keep barriers low for participation.

People should always have the possibility to express themselves and feel empowered to do so

It's a nice thought— many people hold themselves back from participating by thinking to be unable to grasp what politics are all about.

I'd be interested to know more about the methods you used to involve people in the making of the Citizen Manifesto, it seems to have worked out really well to get people participating? DB: It was the simple method of the World Café.10 We organised around 300 round tables over 3 years about a specific topic. In the first phase, opinions and ideas were exchanged which were then developed into concrete political proposals by experts in a second phase. In Berlin, we had a session on 'welfare', where experts from the basic income movement brought in their expertise. In my opinion, this method has worked quite well. Of course, we could have reached out to more people, but we're happy we got thousands of people involved and now have a book in our hands to be shared with others. Plus, you plan to increase its impacts through the Transeuropa Caravans,11 a project you're currently working on... DB: The basic thought about the project is to turn its initial concept around. Instead of people coming to where we are, we literally drive to where they are. We're currently working on the details, then I can tell you more... (laughs). Are you planning to use specific participatory formats? DB: The bottom line of our participatory success is the network, after all — people who were once engaged with us can now locally coordinate and organise amongst their networks or people and initiatives. It would be impossible to coordinate all of it from elsewhere. With formats, you probably mean such things as 'fishbowls' for discussions etc., but that's not the plan for this trip. We don't want to drive to market squares and open up a stand to discuss the manifesto. It could work a few times maybe, but we're more interested in using cultural interventions within our work. It's always

10  The World Café is a structured conversational process in which groups of people discuss a topic at several tables, with individuals switching tables periodically and getting introduced to the previous discussion at their new table by a “table host”’ Source: 11  The Transeuropa Caravans project consisted of six caravan teams taking off simultaneously through different parts of Europe to visit small local initiatives to amplify their voices. Visit:


been important to us to involve performers and artists. We're currently in touch with Kim, who's quite an expert with such things. Last year, we organised a beautiful performance called AIR Time12 which took place simultaneously in different cities around Europe. It was a very exciting format. Of course, it has its limits but it has the potential to be developed further. In ‘new-German’’, you might call it a ‘flash mob’, a one-off thing that can be reproduced. Simultaneity is an important momentum for us at EA; to do things trans-nationally and possibly simultaneously. The Transeuropa Festival happens simultaneously, the Transeuropa Caravan project happens simultaneously — it was a conscious decision not to drive through Europe over a period of three months, but instead to have six teams start simultaneously in different cities. It shows the many layers of the project and re-enforces the idea of collaboration. I'd be interested to hear more about EA using cultural formats to communicate political content, rather than writing academic articles by making things visible on the street. LMS: I think culture makes things much easier to approach, you see something concrete and a much wider range of sensory perceptions are activated; I can hear, see, participate, feel. I believe this is something very important. Artists are often naturally concerned with the given political conditions. Collaborating with them, we double our audience — we reach out to both the politically and the culturally interested. DB: We're also hoping for artists to take over this role, being intellectual people others listen to. It's not an explicit demand from myself, but I'd like to see more artists doing this! You managed to get artists of quite high international profile such as Tania Bruguera13 on board — how did you do it? DB: I believe Emanuele just wrote her an email and she immediately said yes?! LMS: The artists we got involved are concerned with very similar topics like us, so it was quite easy to convince them. It also depends on how much you expect such people to do for you. They can support our project, for example with a protectorate as consultants on the board of the organisation. DB: Tania Bruguera has been amazing! I didn't know her from before, but she is putting in much more time than we asked for, meeting our local group in Paris and such. It is very motivating to see motivated people joining us.

12  Air Time was a one-off public performance during the Transeuropa Festival 2013 taking place simultaneously in different cities around Europe. 13  Tania Bruguera is a Cuban installation and performance artist engaged in socio-political activist art practice. More info:


I really find this kind of collaboration exciting! I wonder how ‘official politics’ perceive what you do? LMS: I feel like we get a lot of positive support in Germany. If you say you're young and engaged for Europe, most political foundations and old-established politicians love you already, even if they don't exactly know what we do. They have this image of an old Europe as a space for peace, without borders and war... so far, we haven't really gotten any negative feedback, no? DB: We have quite strong contacts with people in the European Parliament, who are very helpful as a bridge to what you call ‘official politics’. It is true that we have less contact with conservative politicians, but they are usually less interested in what we do. Is there anything that went totally wrong during your time with EA? What did you learn from it? DB: There was this one very embarrassing thing with a movie screening during the Transeuropa Festival three years ago. We were in touch with a Roma organisation who wanted to show a film on Roma rights. The poryou have to be very trayal of the Roma was stereotypical and superficial. careful in the portrayal I hadn’t watched the movie before, which was a big of a minority as an mistake. We had arranged everything in a café, but outsider when we first previewed it internally we decided it was impossible to show. One of our video teams had created the movie; of course, they didn't mean it that way, but I think you have to be very careful in the portrayal of a minority as an outsider. You mentioned the term empowerment before, what's your understanding of it? DB: I'd refer to what I said before: that you don't need to be an expert in something to be able to have an opinion. LMS: Beyond that, I believe it's about helping activists help themselves, about showing the possibility to do something without having to be guided throughout the process. Giving as less as possible to give people the feeling of ownership. DB: An underlying idea of the Caravan project is its claim “Connecting local alternative voices”. We want to give people who are already active a European perspective for their local struggle, with us being the vehicle showing existing possibilities of participation. Realising that we all struggle with the same issues all around Europe. This is also what I'd call empowerment. One last question: what's next, what's the vision of EA? DB: We're always facing the problem of being a multi-issue organisation and therefore always have to fight for our credibility on the issues we're dealing with. Our vision is to give more people a voice through more members and activists. We'd be happy to become a mouthpiece for people in Europe, because we can represent different ideas and core values such as diversity, equality, democracy, solidarity, etc.


These values need to be fought for such as civil rights, they always needed to be defended, it is important to us to do this at least Europe-wide but also beyond. And it is important to us that the perpetual crisis discourse doesn’t dis-empower people but politicises them in a way that they collaborate and actually change something about this status quo. If we can reach this with EA we are getting far. Thanks for the great interview!

Asking ‘Who does Europe belong to?’ during the Transeuropa Caravans tour in 2014. © European Alternatives.


Tiina-Kaisa Laakso-Liukkonen Š Chris Vidal Tenomaa.

Tiina-Kaisa Laakso-Liukkonen, MSc. (Tech) Industrial Engineering and Management, has over 25 years experience with development work and projects in the private and public sectors. Project and change management, business planning, feasibility studies, as well as financial analysing and impact studies, have always been very strong and essential part of Tiina-Kaisa’s work and responsibilities. In 2010-2013 she worked in the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 project as an administrative director and continues now as a project manager in the Design Driven City Project. She has been a member of the management team in the strategic and administrative issues in many expertise organiaations. Interviewed by AFL.



Design Driven City with Tiina-Kaisa Laakso-Liukkonen Project Director, Design Driven City, Helsinki

Design Driven City (DDC)1 is a two-year initiative with an aim to bring design and the public sector closer. The project’s purpose is to develop both cities and designers. DDC has two main goals: strengthen the use of design in city development through its own design experts, City Designers, and to increase the public sector’s awareness of the significance of design. How do you talk about, frame or understand the word ‘design’ in your project? I don’t have any design background. My background is production engineering and chemistry, but I have been doing consultancies and acquisitions in many areas, and project management in different businesses. In our project I usually use a word which is not theoretically correct, because we are talking about an ‘enlarged design approach’ which is, I know, not an expression people are normally using. We do appreciate the traditional design approach, and we value that it gives a form to subjects and puts the user into the centre of designing. In DDC we talk about design thinking and consider design as a tool added to other abilities. We consider design similar to developing Information and Communications Technology (ICT) abilities. ‘User-driven city’ or ‘citizen-driven city’ could equally be the name of the project, because we put the users and citizens at the centre of the project. People are not so familiar with design, so they always ask us: What’s the difference between design thinking compared to lean-thinking, process-thinking or customer-centric thinking? What is the design thinking really adding to that? The simple answer is that we always think of the user. How do you see the origins of DDC and how do they relate to the purpose? In 2009, when the metropolitan cities (Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, Lahti and Vantaa) decided with the design organisations and ministries that they would apply to host the World Design Capital (WDC) in 2012, they wondered if it could increase

1  Design Driven City,


the understanding of design in the public sector. Although the WDC 2012 was a three-year project it was originally thought that the initiatives generated would continue until 2017. Through WDC 2012 they saw that the organisations involved had many networks and collaborations but that this project had been different in terms of how design was perceived. They wanted to continue the work that was created, the connections and the ‘trust of doing together’ that were established. It was also seen that in the public sector, the cities, the civil servants and people in city organisations at different levels had started to understand that there is something, especially in service design, which is useful, and they wanted to know more, enlarge their interest and expand their knowledge. So, the Design Driven City project was initiated. It sounds to me it is also like a cultural understanding that you are trying to develop, a change of culture? Yes, yes. What do you see as the main purpose for DDC? If there’s only one target, it is decision-makers but also developers and people who are involved at different levels in the cities and municipalities. After this twoyear project (ofDDC) what we would really like people to remember is that design methods and design thinking are worth taking into account. It’s really about raising this awareness. There are ten statements/principles about a design-driven city on your website.2 How did you create these? It is a combination of different discussions throughout the year 2013. When we started to do the strategy for these two years, we met with different civil servants, citizen representatives, the various design organisations and design companies to explain what we are going to do. We asked for many opinions involving over 100 people and, of course, our Board. Riikka Salokanfind a way to include nel, from the city of Lahti said, “DDC is like a two-year design as a natural and prototyping project with the product called ‘city’”. What essential part of the we are doing is really trying to find a way to include city organisation’s life design as a natural and essential part of the city organisation’s life. We are starting with some methods and approaches, but we are prototyping all the time, changing and testing and doing differently. We see that everybody is learning alongside and with each other. Who are the people at the moment with know-how and expertise in design and other areas?

2  Ten principles for DDC,


Design Driven City Project © Kalle Kaitala.

There are different kinds of experts including decision-makers and influencers, people that others follow and listen. The mayors and deputy mayors are very important. They are people willing to listen and follow what we are doing. In a way they are also experts because they take our message to the level of design decisionmaking. So, in the hierarchy of the public sector and city organisations there are many different kinds of experts. I do see that the so-called Design Agents3 group, which we formed, is the most important messenger. This group of 500 people, of which fifty to one hundred are active, are becoming the experts in this field and opinion leaders. For example, Pekka Sauri, the deputy mayor of the city of Helsinki and Hannu Penttilä who is responsible on the technical side. There is an attitude to see and follow what is happening. They are curious and willing to see what it is about. Because of the hierarchy in cities you always have formal and informal groups around some project or theme. The informal environment is very important. Now DDC has to work out how to feed this positive feeling of getting together, continue in the right direction and function, in the end, how to continue without us. You seem to be saying that some of the cultural change happens in the informal environment. Is that what you are seeing? That’s what I’m seeing already. We started four months ago and we are learning now and asking: How can we speed that up?

3  DDC’s Design Agents group,


How do the projects involve stakeholders in problem definition? We can see design as a problem/solution activity, but if you don’t define the problem correctly you don’t get the right solutions. How are the projects set up, how do you involve stakeholders and how are problems defined and owned? When we started the main principle was, because we only have a two-year timeframe and our resources are somewhat limited, that we wouldn’t start our own projects or finance them. We join on-going projects4 where the ownership is very strong. Projects currently include school dinners, the Kaisa library, youth homelessness, tidy construction and building sites, and a festival park. We have some criteria. These projects must have resources, the owner must be extremely committed, and the prime-time of the project must match our timetable, 20142015. There are hundreds of development and planning projects going on in the partner cities, but it was difficult to find the right projects for DDC. Now we have ten projects we are working on. In a really big project like the homelessness one, A Home That Fits, it took two months to really find and define the problem with the project group. We are trying to use this knowledge, about how to find the problems, to help the cities and the design companies to work together. How to tackle this is really an issue. How are the three ‘City Designers’ you appointed working with the projects? They have different roles in these projects. They are experts and, also, helping hands managing the design processes and working with other experts. On smaller projects we can work throughout the project. As you (Alastair) have been doing the city of Lahti’s open co-design strategy, we are also open for participation. When these project teams/owners co-operate with us, they are willing to tell everyone who is keen on what they are doing and people can join together with the projects.

We plan the project group how people, citizens and their customers are taken into these projects

How do you, or your project owners, include the citizens through your networks and platform? Each organisation’s knowledge of using design as a development tool is specific. They give examples in their own organisations and in their administrative areas which are very different. So, for example, the city of Helsinki has 40,000 people in its organisation so citizens are involved in very different ways. How do the project owners include the citizens, the activists, the professional amateurs…? We have such different projects. We plan together with the project group how people, citizens and their customers are taken in to these projects.

4  DDC’s projects,


Are you learning about and developing new tools to involve stakeholders, and is this part of the educational process that goes on to raise awareness about design? Yes, we do have different targets and aims during these two years. Using different approaches and methods in city organisations to take citizens into these projects is one of our main objectives. It is natural, not an exception, and a normal part of the planning. Who do you see, at the moment, are the early adopters of this way of design and who are the recalcitrants, the ones that are resisting, and why? It is really funny. I cannot categorise that. We have noticed that the organisations that have been using and doing design work are actually passing on their knowledge to the organisations that don’t. We personally contact organisations that are less willing to adopt this approach, we meet them and tell we are prototyping them about what we are doing.

different ways design to the

That’s interesting that you have an internal lobbying role can be applied within the cities and that you facilitate raising awareness. public sector Often in these technical and old-fashioned organisations they have not been using any design-connected methods. Our strategy is to tell them, “This is what we are doing, this is how we are doing it”, leading to further discussions. We can offer this half-a-day consultancy. How experimental do you think DDC can be? I think that we are quite experimental already. When you think that in formal public sector organisations we are allowed to work as we are working now, it is quite exceptional. Even though we are required to get results and measure the changes, it is accepted that we are prototyping different ways design can be applied to the public sector. Do you think that word, ‘prototyping’, gives a little bit of licence? WDC 2012 was small-scale and we continue on a small-scale to try and do differently, in this sense it is prototyping. How do you see the new knowledge and know-how you generate being disseminated? Our wish, and hope, is that the availability and use of the knowledge would happen within the two year framework of DDC. Something we learnt from the WDC 2012 project is that people have to learn along the way, through the implementation of their projects. Learning along with the projects is one of our aims. We are planning to do a formal summary of our work, but it is the learning on the projects which is important.


How will the success and impacts of DDC be measured? That is something we’ve been working on with our City Designers. The design process is most important, but you have to have something concrete which you can then use, knowledge you have and generate. Therefore we are trying to describe the design processes we are doing in these projects. I do see that this half-a-day consultancy and the Design Agent group are maybe even more important to get the volume and the end result of the higher level awareness. At the beginning we didn’t think about the importance of these two levels of functions, but during spring 2014 we noticed these are the ones people are interested in even outside Finland. I think Helsinki was the first city to take in designers, as opposed to planners. Is DDC a pioneer for other cities in and outside Finland? We are not aware of other cities doing something similar, but last October we went to Denmark to visit Christian Bason, Director of Mindlab5 at the time who has been working with the Danish government for the last ten years. He was very interested in knowing how our project is going on and to co-operate with us at the Nordic level, which indicates that not so many cities have been doing this. In a recent visit from a British ministry to Finland they also wanted to hear how the municipalities

Design Driven City. © Mikko Saarainen.

5  Mindlab,


are doing in relation to DDC. We know that the Finnish word ‘kaupunkimuotoilija’ (urban designer) was not heard much before DDC existed. Do you have a sense of what the real agency of this project could be, in a best scenario? The best scenario and most important influence would be that we encourage the total public sector (municipalities, cities and government) in Finland to get closer to each other, because it cannot continue to work as it does, it is too heavy. So this project could have a positive impact if it creates more effective arrangements within the total public sector? Yes. What I personally feel is that we need a new combination of voluntary work, the private sector and the public sector to work together. To get this new machine working, you would agree with me that this design approach can show how this sort of change can be done. Yes, I think so. Design at one level is very discursive. Co-design processes are gaining a lot of traction in society at the moment because there are physical tools for getting people to experiment, to understand how they can re-form things, or re-organise things. It is very tactile. Design embraces uncertainty, ambiguity, the willingness to prototype and learning by doing. It provides a good interface for these organisations that are struggling to deal with contemporary issues in an effective way and perhaps it is a neutral environment in way. They don’t own design. If we get something to work effectively it doesn’t mean we have to withhold the savings. We can spend the money saved somewhere else. You have highlighted a perception perhaps, that this design approach is just a way to achieve cost-cutting and ‘design for social innovation’ in the UK is sometimes seen in this way. That is not conducive to collaboration. Future designers maybe Picking up on the theme of agency, we are working need to understand that closely with universities and educational institutions. Future designers maybe need to understand the public sector could be that the public sector could be a place where dea place where designers signers could work. Of course, the abilities that they could work would need to work in this sort of environment are a little different from the private sector. This could be another result for DDC. Thank you very much Tiina-Kaisa for your time and thoughts.


Tools for the Design Revolution was initiated by the Institute of Design Research Vienna (IDRV) in 2010 by focussing on the debate of sustainable design, with research projects, workshops and discursive formats that finally accumulated in an exhibition project which was shown in autumn 2012 at the Designforum in Vienna. The IDRV is a non-profit association, making an independent academic contribution to the establishment of design science. Since its foundation in 2008 by Harald Gruendl, this extra-university institute has worked on interdisciplinary strategies of knowledge production and mediation and focuses on research in the areas of sustainable design and design history. Harald Gruendl, born 1967, studied industrial design at the University for Applied Arts Vienna and co-founded the studio EOOS in 1995. In 2008 he founded the IDRV. Marco Kellhammer, born 1988, studied industrial design and works with a focus on ethics and ecology in design. He works as a research assistant at the IDRV on the topic of sustainable development. Christina Nägele, born 1976, studied cultural studies and aesthetic practice, working at the intersection of visual art, architecture and design in the areas of curatorial practice, cultural transmission and communication.

Case Study

Tools for the Design Revolution by Marco Kellhammer, Harald Gruendl & Christina Nägele, Institute of Design Research Vienna

Purpose/aim of the project: To set up an exhibition and a book which make people think and act on their own. Our aim was to try out every tool ourselves, show what we have experienced and translate these findings in a visual, haptic and lowthreshold way for a wide audience. Names of people involved: Harald Gruendl, Ulrike Haele, Marco Kellhammer, and Christina Nägele in collaboration with Grafisches Büro,1 BreadedEscalope,2 Danklhampel, designaustria,3 Spirit Design,4 Animal Design Studio,5 Veronika Tzekova and others. Key stakeholders: Designers, but also non-designers, autodidacts, researchers, specialists, students and experts. Geographic location: Not bound to a certain location. The chosen examples and the book can be seen as blueprints for projects all over the world. Supported by: Funded by The Technology Agency of the City of Vienna (ZIT), The Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, departure and The Arts Division and the Culture Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria. Start date/Finish date: 2010 – ongoing. Website or other online resource:

1  2  3  4  5

Grafisches Büro is an Austrian graphic design office. BreadedEscalope is an Austrian design firm ‘generating socially sustainable objects.’ Spirit Design is a strategic design company based in Vienna. Based in Graz, Animal Design Studio works on design projects that ‘make sense’.


BEGINNING What triggered the project? The questions: How to intervene in what is going on globally, how to be able to make sustainable design, how to do it yourself, and how to act yourself? How to empower yourself, designers and consumers with tools, How to empower so as not to be stuck in the circle of better and bigger?

yourself, designers and consumers with tools, to NOT be stuck in the circle of better and bigger?

What was your motivation? To bring together the research and knowledge generated and found by the institute during the last two years, and to make it available to a broader public. To develop, collect and try new and existing tools for sustainable design that are easy to use, free, everywhere to find, simple, elaborate, fun, serious, philosophical, interdisciplinary, collaborative — and revolutionary.

Are there similar projects? Did these stimulate you and are you linked to them in any way? Alternative ways of doing research, communicating and displaying knowledge has been a key interest of the IDRV. We found stimulating models in the field of artistic research, as well as strategies of visualisation coming from the fine arts, or iconic books like Marshall McLuhan's The Medium is the Message,6 which nowadays might be called a picture book, but actually has become a scientific source. There are two projects that inspired us the most, on a visual basis and with regard to contents. The first is Global Tools.7 Their idea of empowerment of each and every individual to act for themselves, on their own initiative is also very fundamental to our project, as well as free access to the tools. The second inspiring source is the Whole Earth Catalog.8 It was first published in 1968 by Stewart Brand and reissued at irregular intervals until 1998. Like our toolboxes, the Whole Earth Catalog has assembled a variety of useful tools that can help the individual and the established community alike to make the world better for themselves and for others. But we also call to not only look up preselected things. We would be delighted if people spent their time being curious, asking their own questions, looking things up, testing, and then sharing their knowledge.

6  McLuhan, M., 1967. The Medium is the Message. London: Penguin Books. 7  A loose, short-term consortium of Italian designers and architects including Ettore Sottsass Jr. and Andrea Branzi among others, formed in 1973 with the goal of promoting individual creativity while experimenting with the use of natural materials and traditional techniques in collective processes. 8  Brand, S., 1968. Whole Earth Catalog. Various versions of the catalogue are available here,


Designforum Wien 2012. © Wolfgang Thaler.

What are/were the key organisational aspects and organisational structures? Harald Gruendl, Ulrike Haele, and Martina Mara in 2011 conceptualised the idea of an exhibition project and acquired funding in cooperation with designaustria. Christina Nägele curated the exhibition together with Harald Gruendl. Marco Kellhammer started as an intern and stayed with the IDRV. After the exhibition toured, the latter three started to conceptualise the book and wrote it together with the returned Ulrike Haele, as a team. Collaboration, teamwork and shared authorship became principle ideas of the IDRV. Although not always easy in practice, we try to keep our roles flexible and work as a team.

ACTING & DOING What are/were the key activities? The exhibition; the development of model projects by designers in collaboration with the design industry; educational events such as workshops; discursive events inducing discussions and lectures; the book. What are/were the key approach & methods? To research strategies and methods towards a socially and ecologically sustainable development by using and developing free accessible tools or making them accessible. Documenting the hands-on research by using camera, creating catchy images which try to visualise complex causalities like disassembling a capsule-coffee-maker and show it next to a Bialetti Moka Express or comparing a Kalashnikov with a printer and it’s cartridge container as two examples of durability, resilience and easy to repair strategies. We set up the exhibition in wooden boxes, as to show the displayed items as tools. The original objects, our samples and books or creativity tools were


there to be touched, to be read and played with. This approach also was the starting point for the book: we conceptualised it as a manual, to keep it low-threshold. How did you get people participating? For the initial model projects we directly invited designers and artists and brought them together with partners from the industry to develop model projects on the topics of living, food and mobility which then were presented in the exhibition. We invited experts to our discussion format Circle 0000x (r=y),9 we collaborated with people while doing a hands-on research and we tried to bring people to discuss about issues through small interventions. In our workshops with school classes, students but also professionals, we not only mediated our knowledge but we also gave the participants the possibility to share their knowledge and learn from each other. What is/was essential for practical matters? A hammer, a screwdriver, a kitchen scale, an ammeter, paper and pencil and a pocket calculator were essential tools to get to know about material use. We also used some numbers to calculate the environmental footprint of objects. In our research, we try to focus on the use of basic tools, our skills of talking to people, listening and visualising. What are/were the key communication channels and methods? Word of mouth, disseminators involved in the project like pupils, students, designaustria and the Vienna Design Week; printed invitation cards, posters, media contributions and social media. What are/were the outcomes with reference to the target audience? Finally by publishing the book we provide a compendium or handbook of sustainable design strategies and a collection of tools for an informed design process. What are/were the impacts — target audience and wider? One important impact of the exhibition was that it was invited to other institutions in Austria, to the designforum in Vorarlberg10 and to the Designmonat Graz.11 For every location and context we adapted the exhibition to bring in regional topics and to link with agents from the region, in order to broaden the network. The IDRV has since been internationally invited to lectures, to workshops by universities, cultural institutions, but also by economic players — all related to the topic.

9  Circle is an event series successfully launched in 2010 by the IDRV. The goal is to position — theoretically and discursively — the, unfortunately, still underdeveloped discourse on the development conditions, modes of action and interdisciplinary connections of design in Austria. The name of the series, Circle 0000x (r=y), refers to the circular design of the discussion, while the numbering indicates the intent to continue. More at 10 11 12


Finally the IDRV was approached by niggli Verlag12 to make the book with the same name. We hope now that the book reaches an even broader audience because it is more enduring than the exhibition format. What are/were the dates of special or key-events? One initial moment was the invitation of Martina Mara and Harald Gruendl to the Lens Conference on Sustainability in Design: NOW! Challenges and Opportunities for Design Research, Education and Practice in the XXI Century13 in September 2010 in Bangalore, India. This was the key event to focus on sustainable design. A two-day workshop in June 2012 at the MAK Vienna,14 Museum of Applied Arts, was the starting point to test a few of our tools together with the participants. Finally the opening of the exhibition Tools for the Design Revolution in autumn of 2012 was a special event, which then was followed by invitations to exhibit in other institutions as well as on the International Interiors Show (IMM) 2013 in Cologne and on the 2013 fair in Milano. While exhibiting our research, it was important to exchange our knowledge and test our tools in workshops at a University in Chengdu, the University in Hildesheim, a Zumtobel workshop in Frankfurt, etc. There were also a series of discursive events on questions of sustainable design in the Circle 0000x (r=y) series and in the MAK Design Laboratory15 in 2014.

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is/was the project sustained? The ongoing work, like workshops and lessons on open education platforms sustain the project. All the content is published under a Creative Commons license and we would like people to share and participate in the Design Revolution. What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? Since the project is rather low-budget, we were dependent on a lot of support from other people — friends, like-minded people or supporters. So there was a lot of human and social capital involved. But although it is low-budget, the public funding of the project was absolutely necessary to get our project done.

13  The Sustainability in Design: Now! Conference is a platform for sharing the latest knowledge and experiences in product, service and system design, to promote sustainable systems thinking in design education, research and practice communities. The conference approach is to look at various stakeholders in this arena — designers, design educators and design researchers — as a unique learning community. The objective is the creation of a new ethos within such a community, enabling all possible synergies and fruitful processes of knowledge and know-how osmosis and cross-fertilisation. Further info: 14 15  Design has a duty to improve our lives. In this day and age it is faced with the challenge of reconciling individuals’ pursuit of prosperity with long-term social interests. This includes sustainable development, social cohesion, and lifelong learning. Digitalisation is opening up new possibilities, which should be used for positive change. The MAK DESIGN LAB is founded on this modified role for design. Further info:


Is it self-sustaining now, or will it be in the future? We hope that the ideas and tools spread, that people ask for our knowledge and share their knowledge — this is already starting to work. Are you happy with the project? Yes! Would you change anything? Although we are happy with our work, we would do a lot of things differently if we would have another chance — because we learnt a lot and we think that we could push things further. Plus, it always depends on the context, on what you are doing. Is the project scalable? The project can be scaled, for example we can do workshops or just some kind of intervention by showing a selected toolbox with its items instead of the whole exhibition. We would like to get people to be a part of the design revolution and share the knowledge. As mentioned above, all items are published by Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License.16 What are your future plans? The next step is to start Tools for the Design Revolution as an open education project on iTunes U17 and other channels. We would like to make people participate in the project, generate model projects and share their knowledge.

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? What was ‘produced’? How many people were involved? We showed the exhibition three times, published a book in German and English language and are currently realising an open education course. There were many people involved, I would say more than fifty people who directly supported us, shared their knowledge with us and had a smaller or bigger impact on the project. What capacity did you build? How did you change people’s lives? It’s a big goal and it is very hard to say if we changed people’s lives, but we very much hope that we at least changed the attitude of some people, and that we gave some people the tools to change their lives.

16  Which means you are free to share the material in any medium or format and adapt it, under the conditions of using the same license for non-commercial purposes and giving appropriate credit. 17  iTunes U is a platform created by Apple that makes it possible to provide and manage free and open educational material for students within a college or university as well as the broader Internet within the Apple iTunes Store.


LESSONS LEARNED What can be given as advice for the readers? Ask questions, go out, speak to people, look things up and share your knowledge!

Designmonat Graz 2013 Š Stephan Friesinger.

Fernando Lusitano - Reboot and remix your bodily/kinaesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, logic-mathematical, linguistic, musical, naturalistic and spatial intelligences (with thanks to Howard Gardner).


learning The activities of acquiring, giving and exchanging skills, knowledge and experiences by teaching oneself and others, and learning from each other to encourage healthy social discussion, evolution of new wisdoms and activation of hidden capabilities.


Katharina Moebus, born 1984 in Germany with roots in Finland, is an interdisciplinary designer who works at the crossroads of design, art, activism and research. After her studies in Italy, Switzerland and Helsinki, she worked in diverse international design studios, for various NGO's in Southeast Asia, and at Aalto University Helsinki as research assistant and tutor, exploring how design can help tackle socio-political issues. She likes home-made bread and walks in the forest.



Learning by doing – the transformative power of do-it-together (DIT) by Katharina Moebus

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them. Aristotle1

There are certain things you only learn through direct experience. Roughly four years ago, I had the chance to go through an experience which entirely changed the way I look at problems. At that time, I was in the process of graduating from my design studies in Helsinki and was planning to organise a do-it-yourself (DIY) workshop to collectively build a public outdoor oven. I was looking for help from professional brick-layers, but none seemed to be willing to teach their skills to a bunch of beginners. Just before, a friend had introduced me to the online platform The Public School, a ‘school without curriculum’, where anyone can propose classes on anything to try and find like-minded people and potential teachers.2 I gave it a try and posted my request. Quite soon, I received an answer by a lady named Salla Kuuluvainen, a food activist and active urban gardener. She had once participated in a cob oven building workshop and suggested that technique instead of using bricks for the oven construction. Cob is a rather simple, cheap and ecological way of building.3 The thread between the two of us continued until we agreed on a meeting in a small café in Helsinki. Salla brought a friend along, Tanja Korvenmaa, who had experience in mediation and facilitation and, also in building with cob. A month later, the workshop was scheduled and a group of about fifteen people from various professional backgrounds, ages and nationalities gathered around the planning and making of a cob oven in an urban location. With the help of an open-source online manual (passionately provided by Simon Brookes on his blog

1  Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 2  The Public School, 3  ‘Cob’ is a mixture of clay soil with straw, stone and other materials which strengthen the matrix on drying. It is a well known construction technique for vernacular buildings worldwide.


The Clay Oven4), the oven was built during a sunny weekend in the late summer at the former fish harbour Kalasatama in Helsinki. Kalasatama was a vacant construction site at that time and, so, open for cultural activities and projects.5 We used only found materials from the direct environment such as clay from the riverbed of a nearby forest, old bricks and sand from a construction site, and water from the Baltic Sea. Only the baking surface needed to be safe for food, so we crowd funded the purchase of a few special bricks from the hardware store amongst the building group. After the weekend, the oven was built and almost ready for use; it just needed a last layer of clay and a few days drying until we could fire it for the first time. And it worked! Its first official use was during the harvest festival of the local environmental organisation Dodo,6 when it produced many delicious pizzas topped with vegetables from the nearby urban gardens. Amongst many other events, another highlight was our participation in Restaurant Day,7 where we organized a DIY pizza afternoon with wild ingredients foraged from the local woods. With more than 100 pizzas baked, an estimated 200 people participating, and everything eaten up, the event proved a big success. The empowering dimension of learning from each other how to build something rather technical by simply doing it swept all of us off our feet. It did not only generate pride in each one of us, but also created social bonds amongst the group that have continued over the years until today, even after the oven had succumbed to the Finnish climate after two years of heavy use.

Busy bees collecting material for the

Half-way done! The building group celebrating

construction. © Katharina Moebus.

first successes. © Katharina Moebus.

4  The Clay Oven, 5  Kalasatama Temporary, 6  Dodo ry is a Finnish environmental organisation founded in Helsinki in 1995 focussing on sustainable lifestyles in the city. More info: 7  Restaurant Day is a pop-up food carnival taking place every three months all around the world. It started in 2011 in Helsinki and has grown internationally ever since. More info:


The first pizza made at the Dodo harvest festival. © Katharina Moebus.

To make the oven publicly accessible, we set up a blog called Stadin Uuni8 (meaning 'The City's Oven'), where people could make reservations through an online calendar and check instructions on how to use the oven. It quickly became known across the city and was used by many different groups and individuals. It also inspired several other ovens in the city, such as the oven at Dodo's urban garden in the Pasila district9 and the one in front of the new food court Teurastamo near Kalasatama.10 Different and new members of the building group took care of answering emails, doing small repairs to the oven, upgrades, and refilling firewood.

New communities of mutual exchange All of this was only possible by combining the knowledge and experience of many different people who found themselves through the simple support of an online platform. It complies with the early vision of Ivan Illich, a radical thinker and educational theorist who talked about ‘deschooling’ in his book Deschooling Society:

8  More info: 9  More info: 10  More info:


‘A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.’ Ivan Illich11

According to Illich, the institutionalisation of education was doing the exact opposite, institutionalising society and working against self-directed learning. He proposed so-called ‘learning webs’, where people would become part of a peermatching network and find their suitable learning partner by describing their activities of interest. Illich’s thoughts were prescient. The internet, social media, and platforms such as The Public School are making exactly such learning webs possible. It enables the rise of new neighbourhoods and creates local communities in cities. In his essay 'A buzz between rural cooperation and the online swarm', Helsinki-based Scottish researcher Andrew Paterson12 explores the Finnish term and social concept 'talkoot', neighbourly help, and its connections to collaborative web platforms and digital network culture.13 Paterson quotes Tapani Köppä, research director of Cooperative Network Studies at the Ruralia Institute, to describe what 'talkoot' means in more detail: “People getting together for joint work efforts, based on voluntary participation, and collective reward through hospitality and enjoying of the shared work performance.”14 Paterson draws further connections to the concept of 'mutual aid' in village community structures as described by Peter Kropotkin in 1902, which was, according to Kropotkin, suppressed by state-based institutions, similar to Illich's critique of the institutionalised society: ‘The village communities were bereft of their folkmotes, their courts and independent administration; their lands were confiscated. Political education, science, and law were rendered subservient to the idea of State centralization. It was taught in the Universities and from the pulpit that the institutions in which men formally used to embody their needs of mutual support could not be tolerated in a properly organized State; that the State alone could represent the bonds of union between its subjects; that federalism and “particularism” were the enemies of progress, and the State was the only proper initiator of further development.’ Peter Kropotkin15

11  Illich, I., 1971. Deschooling Society. New York: Harper & Row. 12  Andrew has worked with this concept with Camp Pixelache, see 13  Paterson, A., G., 2009. A Buzz between Rural Cooperation and the Online Swarm. Affinities. A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action, 4(1), Summer 2010, pp. 83-109. Available at: affinities/article/view/51/140 14  Köppä, T., 2009, Remarks on rural co-operation in Finland. Keynote presentation at the Alternative Economy Cultures seminar, Pixelache Helsinki Festival. Helsinki: Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art on 03 April 2009. 15  Kropotkin, P., 2008 (1902). Mutual aid: A factor of evolution. Charleston, SC: Forgotten Books.


Dialogues of learning It is likely to connect the concept of 'mutual aid' and 'talkoot' to the idea of 'mutual learning', a term still being defined.16 The definition that is closest to my understanding of 'mutual learning' is, perhaps, that of 'dialogue education', an educational approach first described by educator Jane Vella in the 1980s.17 Amongst others, it draws on the theories of Brazilian educator Paolo Freire, to whom I will come to shortly. The basis of the dialogue approach is, according to Vella, mutual respect and open communication. Learners and teachers meet each other on an equal level, both actively engaging with the learning content instead of the student being dependent on the teacher’s instructions. It can be a means to 'transformative learning', a learning theory founded and developed by American sociologist Jack Mezirow. The transformation of one's perspective is at focus, with the following three dimensions: ‘psychological (changes in understanding of the self), convictional (revision of belief systems), and behavioural (changes in lifestyle).’18 Mezirow describes the relevance and impacts of transformative learning as such: ‘A defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience. For some, any uncritically assimilated explanation by an authority figure will suffice. But in contemporary societies we must learn to make our own interpretations rather than act on the purposes, beliefs, judgements, and feelings of others. Facilitating such understandings is the cardinal goal of adult education. Transformative learning develops autonomous thinking.’ Jack Mezirow19

Furthermore, Mezirow believes that the transformation of perspective occurs at major life transitions or disorienting dilemmas,20 which, I was happy to read, can also be less dramatic, such as those created by a teacher.21 This goes line in line with what Roope Mokka of Demos Helsinki, an independent think tank with foci on societal change and environmental sustainability, once said in an interview for the blog

16  Googling this term, there does not seem to be a consistent definition, being used in many different, not necessarily suitable contexts, so it still seems to be a term in emergence. 17  Read more on Wikipedia: 18  Clark, M., C., 1991. The restructuring of meaning: an analysis of the impact of context on transformational learning. Thesis EdD. University of Georgia, 1991. 19  Mezirow, J., 1997. Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 74, pp.5–12. 20  Mezirow, J.,1995. Transformation Theory of Adult Learning. In: Welton, M.R. ed. 1995. In Defense of the Lifeworld, New York: SUNY Press. pp. 39–70. 21  Torosyan, R., 2007. Teaching for Transformation: Integrative Learning, Consciousness Development and Critical Reflection. Unpublished manuscript.


‘Another thing that changes our attitudes is a change of perspective. This however happens only a couple of times in your lifetime. Sometimes, they become very spiritual moments, but they don’t actually happen that often.’ Roope Mokka22

The need to position ourselves Mutual education seems a very potent tool for social change. It enables people to understand and, beyond that, participate actively in changing the conditions of our lives. This liberating process is founded in the theories of Paolo Freire who I mentioned above. His learning theory is known as critical or radiMutual education seems cal pedagogy, which combines education with critical a very potent tool for theory – a school of thought that puts forward the social change reflection and critique of society and culture. Freire emphasises the students’ ability to think critically about their social and historical context to understand how it was connected to their individual problems. He coins this ability as 'critical consciousness', the ability to 'read the world' in order to become active subjects in the creation of a democratic society.23 Critical consciousness is a crucial ingredient that supports self-determination and self-directed learning — how are we to know what we need and want to know in order to understand the world if we are used to prescribed curricula by the state? The activist group Trapese Collective, who published the book DIY – A handbook for changing our world24 puts forward the concept of popular education, which they describe as: ‘An education where we relearn co-operation and responsibility, that is critically reflective but creatively looks forward- an education that is popular, of and from the people. Popular, liberatory or radical education aims at getting people to understand their world around them, so they can take back control collectively, understand their world, intervene in it, and transform it. There are many examples of groups that can organize their own worlds without experts and professionals, challenge their enemies and build movements for change.’ Trapese25

Popular education draws heavily on the theories of Freire, and is never politically neutral as its aim is social change – it is at the crossroads of politics and education, a self-organised grassroots approach that relies on and aims at individual and col-

22  Mokka, R., 2012. Out of the tank. Interviewed by Katharina Moebus [blog], Helsinki, 12 Dec. 2012. Available at: 23  Freire, P., 1973. Education for critical consciousness. New York: Seabury Press. 24  Trapese Collective ed., 2007. Do It Yourself: A Handbook for Changing Our World. London: Pluto Press. 25  Trapese Popular Education Collective, 2013. What is Popular Education. Available at:


lective emancipation. Other than the traditional education provided by the state, critiqued by philosopher Alan Watts in 1967: ‘Our educational system, in its entirety, does nothing to give us any kind of material competence. In other words, we don’t learn how to cook, how to make clothes, how to build houses, how to make love, or to do any of the absolutely fundamental things of life. The whole education that we get for our children in school is entirely in terms of abstractions. It trains you to be an insurance salesman or a bureaucrat, or some kind of cerebral character.’26

The recent documentary alphabet by Austrian filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer27 in 2013 leaves the impression that not much has changed since then, depicting an educational system that kills creativity and trains our children to become part of a competitive production force. He emphasizes the importance of playful failure to be able to look for new solutions. Wagenhofer does not blame the system, but every individual, saying that it is up to us to position ourselves on how we want to live, but that we need to live differently.28 The documentary Lottery of Birth from the same year by filmmakers Raoul Martinez and Joshua van Praag29 explores the forces that determine who we become and in what structures we think, which also determines the society we create. The awareness about the forces which come from our families, schools, culture and professional work can be a starting point to rethink the way we live. It requires learning new skills and ways of thinking which lay at the heart of the current world-wide movements of sharing knowledge, collaborating, and very simple and practical making.

Amateurism, the Great Reskilling, and DIT The 2013 German book Stadt der Commonisten ('City of Commoners') by the three sociologists Andrea Baier, Christa Müller and Karin Werner30 beautifully compiles and portrays the many different and colourful forms this new sense of 'commonism' may take, from Repair Cafés31 over urban gardens to open-source cargo bike collectives to maker labs.32 What they all have in common is the open trial-and-error-attitude Wagenhofer thought was lacking in our schools and

26  Watts, A. et al., 1967. The Houseboat Summit. The San Francisco Oracle, issue 7. San Francisco, CA, available at: 27  alphabet. 2012. [Documentary] Directed by Erwin Wagenhofer. Austria: Prisma Film. 28  Kaever, O., 2013. Alles nur geföhnte Bubis und Barbies. ZEIT Online [online] 1 Nov. Available at: http://www.zeit. de/kultur/film/2013-10/dokumentarfilm-alphabet-erwin-wagenhofer 29  Lottery of Birth. 2012. [Documentary] Directed by Joshua Van Praag and Raoul Martinez. UK/USA: Independent Production. 30  Baier, A., Müller, C. and Werner, K., 2013. Stadt der Commonisten. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag. 31  See interview in this book with Elisa Garrote-Gasch 32  See essay in this book by Cindy Kohtala


an endless curiosity to explore unknown fields without having a problem with being amateurs. Amateurism is usually associated with bad and clumsy work, even though the etymology indicates the word stems from 'love'. To explore an unknown field with love and passion can be more fruitful and inventive than being stuck with one's professional expertise. And, in uncertain times, what if there are no professionals (yet) because new fields first need to be explored in order to find new ways of living together? And, what if we actually need to 'reskill' ourselves and re-learn many of the things that were natural to our grandfathers and mothers to face the future after constant growth and environmental depletion? Many of the current transitional movements focus on the very basic things of life, such as growing food, sewing clothes, making jam, baking bread, or foraging for wild herbs. The Transition Town movement calls it 'the Great Reskilling',33 learning some of the practical artisan skills from the past that are more sustainable and require slower lifestyles. It is critiqued as going back to medieval times, and as having a naïve and blue-eyed romanticism — but why is it so attractive nowadays in a world of connectedness, smartphones, urban life and thriving developments of technology? Why are there thriving movements about slow living, slow food, slow working, urban gardening, a re-emergence of country life and traditional artisan knowledge?34 Maybe, it is the human scale that is missing in our globalised world, the very essence of what makes us human — to do things with our hands, to know how things are made and what from. Sociologist Richard Sennett's book The Craftsman35 describes how making things with our hands is crucial for us human beings to ‘enrich our lives’ and ‘be in touch with the world around us’. His later book Together36 depicts how cooperation is something embedded in human nature and highly relevant for societies to flourish. The learning initiatives popping up all around the world go beyond online manuals and open access to knowledge – they create community by physically bringing people with similar interests together, creating new possibilities of mutual learning experiences. DIY has become do-itwith-others (DIWO) or do-it-together (DIT).37 People from all ages, backgrounds and nationalities meet up to share their knowledge with others – not motivated by money or competition, but by the rich exchange of knowledge, the new insights and experiences, and, last but not at all least, the social networks and community arising around it. Taking up different roles at the same time, the one of a teacher, of a learner, of an 'experimenteur' and collective researcher is the foundation of mutual learning. Those roles are fluent and exchangeable, putting all on the same

33  Hopkins, R., 2011. The Transition Companion. Making your community more resilient in uncertain times. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing. 34  Slow food movement:, acknowledged by all of the other ‘slow movements’. 35  Sennett, R., 2008. The Craftsman. New Haven: Yale University Press. 36  Sennett, R., 2012. Together – The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. New Haven: Yale University Press. 37  See also: Pixelache, 2012. Do It With Others – D.I.W.O. is the new D.I.Y.. Pixelache blog, [blog] 7 May 2012. Available at:


eye-level. It is empowering to realise that everybody has something to share, to be part of the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts,38 no matter how small one's contribution. As Mezirow describes, such learning experiences can be transformative, or as Mokka said, almost spiritual moments. This was certainly my experience during the cob oven building, for me and my fellow builders.

Everyone can teach their passion In 2012, the independent think tank Demos organized 'Koulu', an experimental open school festival in Helsinki.39 People were invited to teach their skills in short sessions during the festival. No limits were set in advance about the teaching content, so there were classes ranging from life drawing to ukulele-playing and programming. What is particularly interesting is that people were enthusiastic to sign up to become a teacher even though they did not have any previous teaching experience. The open invitation to teach your skill had an empowering dimension simply by expressing the idea that everyone can teach their passion. Another interesting learning project which supports this impression is Trade School,40 an open-source concept that originated in New York in 2009. Here, learning is exchanged against barter items that the teacher can wish for preliminary of the class. Those items can be anything from a bottle of red wine to a hug, a cup of coffee, advice on best places to see to homemade cookies. In less than five years, Trade Schools have expanded all over the world. This expansion is facilitated by it being an open source concept for which a manual, an online platform and direct support from its founders are provided. At the time of writing, there are fifty Trade Schools around the globe, from New York to Montreal to Mexico City, the Philippines, Vietnam, most European countries and many more. If there isn't one in your city, why don't you start your own chapter?41 I got involved with Trade School (TS) Berlin by a lucky coincidence: I learned about its existence through Amber Hickey's book Guidebook of Alternative Nows42 and then met Vanessa Buth while participating in the bike ride book launch of the Community Lovers' Guide to the Universe,43 organized by European Alternatives as a part of the Transeuropa Festival.44 Vanessa had been part of the TS Norwich and was eager to get involved with the Berlin chapter having recently moved to Berlin. We got in touch with the founders of TS Berlin, two young women from New York – Harley Aussoleil and Jes Walsh, who are also part of Boys Club, an

38  39  40  41  42  43  44

Referring to the infamous quote by Aristotle from his Metaphysica: ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ See more: See more: See the manual on how to start your own Trade School in this book See the interview with Amber Hickey in this book See interview with Francesca Weber-Newth and Isolde Nagel, Community Lover’s Guide to Berlin in this book See interview with European Alternatives in this book


The Koulu-festival 2012 took place in an abandoned mental hospital. © Katharina Moebus.

open project space that combines living and working, it being their own living room with a large front store window. Harley and Jes were happy to get support from other organisers, and after a few meetings of planning and discussing, we set up an open event to reintroduce TS to the neighbourhood. We also invited other similar initiatives from Berlin, such as the Tauschring Neukölln45 (a barter community) and the Bürgeruni46 (Citizen University), which is inspired by another learning experience, The U,47 from England. Other TS chapters from Milan and Halle also joined to present their activities and stories, which all differ depending on the people involved and local circumstances at hand. We kicked-off the season with a first class on internet security, which was followed by three intense months of diverse lessons ranging from dance, philosophy (e.g. How to change your life forever), open design, cooking (e.g. Chinese Dumplings, Italian Pizza, Finnish Cuisine), bike repair, help with German bureaucracy, and many other, mostly very practical classes.

Establishing new systems of exchange Trade School and all of the other initiatives described above demonstrate that value is subjective and diverse. These initiatives encourage cooperation by people wanting to give back something to someone that goes beyond the usual value of money.

45öllner-nachbarn 46 47


They establish and explore a new kind of solidarity economy that emphasises the fact that everybody has something to give. They create an alternative system of mutual exchange, redefining and expanding the term capital to the social, hopefully shaking off the negative sound it still carries along to establish a new and healthy alternative economy based on mutual respect and collective interests. Beyond that, they create new local communities and knowledge specific to a place which can be shared globally via the internet. And finally, they redefine the term 'amateur' and make it something positive again: people engaging in an activity for the love of it, with an open mind unrestricted by formal training and financial pressure. So, here’s my honest recommendation as a DIY/DIWO/DIT enthusiast: If you ever get the chance to create or make a learning experience with any of the initiatives described in this book, grab it. Get involved. Share your knowledge. Create a local community. Or simply start your own initiative. You will love it.

A Trade School class about computer security. Š Katharina Moebus.


An open air classroom. Š The Public School Berlin.

Caleb Waldorf (CW) is an artist currently living in Berlin. Currently he is the Creative Director of the magazine he co-founded in 2007, Triple Canopy. Since 2008, he has served on the committee for The Public School in Los Angeles and Berlin. More on Caleb at: Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga (FLH) works between the realms of art, architecture and urban research. She has been part of the organising committee of The Public School Berlin since 2010. More on Fotini at: Fiona GeuĂ&#x; (FG) is a PhD candidate at Free University Berlin conducting research on dialogical art work. Since 2010 she has served on the committee of The Public School Berlin. More on Fiona at: Interviewed by KM.



A school with no curriculum with Caleb Waldorf, Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga and Fiona Geuß, The Public School Berlin1

The Public School is a school with no curriculum. It was initiated in 2007 in Los Angeles in the basement of an exhibition and performance space called Telic Art Exchange. On The Public School’s website, the project is described as 'a framework that supports autodidactic activities, operating under the assumption that everything is in everything.' The school was initially conceived as an experiment to program the art space through a pedagogical system, developing projects and exhibitions out of the classes. While winter was taking its last deep breath, we met three of the current committee members and initiators of the Berlin chapter, Caleb Waldorf, Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga and Fiona Geuß at Archive Books2 in Berlin-Kreuzberg, where the school is currently hosted. How do most chapters of The Public School start? Could you talk specifically about The Public School in Berlin? CW: There isn’t an established procedure on a how to start a new school. The initial expansion of The Public School happened through a variety of scenarios: personal networks, people finding out about the project and getting in touch, people from an area where a school was located moving to a new place and hooking up with others to begin a school, and so on. The Public School Berlin’s origin had a different character than the other schools. In the summer of 2010, Sean Dockray, Fiona Whitton3 and I organised a thirteen day itinerant seminar called ‘There is nothing less passive than the act of fleeing…’4 The seminar took the form of an open reading group, where the texts discussed each day resonated with the site selected. The seminar wasn’t directly supported by any

1 2  Archive is a platform for cultural research, debate and production located in Berlin-Kreuzberg. More info: www. 3  Sean Dockray and Fiona Whitton are the directors of Telic Arts Exchange, which initiated the first school in 2008 in Los Angeles. 4


institutions in the city and we advertised it through our existing communication channels. This meant we didn’t have a clear sense of how the seminar would unfold. Who would attend? Would people come once or repeatedly? Would anyone even show up?! We were taken aback by the turnout. The lowest attendance we had one day was four or five people, but several days there were as many as thirty. While only one person (other than Sean, Fiona and I) made it every day, many came to over half the meetings. The group of people that seemed the most committed, became the first committee of the school in Berlin. We had a few meetings after the seminar and then we launched the project here in September of that year. What is the organisational structure behind The Public School? CW: With regards to the broader organisational structure, it has changed over time and it will likely be modified in the future. The Public School is effectively the online platform that supports and connects its local institutions. Each school has a rotating committee that assists in the coordination of proposals to organise classes and meetings. In the first versions of the platform, the schools were largely detached from one another; each occupying their own sub-domain with minimal connectivity between the branches. In the last iteration of the platform5 this changed to make things more fluid between schools by centralising proposals, only keeping classes and meetings as localised events. It hasn’t worked exactly as anticipated, but a new version of the platform is in the works to rectify some of the issues we’ve seen emerge over the last few years. We are hoping that it negotiates the macro-view of the project and the specificity of its local variations more successfully. There will also be some features that people can use if they don’t have a school in their city. So there are all the different chapters with their own approaches, but in general, they all share the idea of 'a school with no curriculum'? FLH: Each school ends up taking a slightly different direction, based on the group that is involved and the context where the school is located. But it all works through the same online platform and operates on the idea that there is no curriculum that is prepared and decided in advance. As Caleb mentioned, in the previous versions of the website, each city was more independent, but now there is the possibility to share class proposals regardless of which city they originate from. In this way, a common pool of ideas, desires and interests comes into being, which can then find different manifestations in the various schools. I was involved with The Public School in Helsinki, being on the committee for some months. Is there still a rotating committee as there was back then? CW: Each school handles the committee rotation differently. For that aspect of the project to function, there must be new classes and meetings. If the school

5  Launched in the autumn of 2012.


is inactive, there aren’t new people participating, which makes finding new committee members difficult. The Public School can take a lot of energy to maintain. I've been on the committee for … well, I've never been off the committee (laughs)! I it opens up a space for haven't rotated off, but I've definitely become less active for periods of time. I think for most involved, other new inputs and ideas on aspects of life — work, travel, family — inevitably takes how a school can be run over and requires stepping away from the school. This, I think, is a good thing as it opens up a space for new inputs and ideas on how a school can be run. There are a lot of learning initiatives popping up right now, and they all have their own kind of way of setting up their organisational structure. Was there any funding involved or was it all on a voluntary basis so far? CW: Telic Arts Exchange6 is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organisation,7 which received grants and individual donations — the largest of which was from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The Public School has received support from Telic Arts Exchange to assist in website maintenance and hosting. There isn’t, however, any support for the day-to-day operation of the various school or the ‘mothership’, it is all volunteer. FG: In terms of the school in Berlin, we are still operating without a budget, besides the website costs. We are lucky at the moment, compared to other schools, to have a key to this space, Archive Books, so that we can use this room whenever we want to. And before coming here the school was hosted at PROGRAM8 for a year and a half. From my point of view having a permanent location is very important for the school. Of course having some proper funding would also make other things possible, for example enable the school to have a more consistent program. But the school does not only consist out of spatial and online infrastructure but mainly of the people actively involved in it. And this voluntary work has to be made available every time by each person involved from all sides. At the same time those kinds of relations rely on trust and solidarity, which also influence how a project functions and you never know what happens once money gets involved. CW: There have been different economic models over the history of the school(s). Some have charged a small amount for classes. That money would typically go

6  Telic Arts Exchange provides a place for multiple publics to engage with contemporary forms of media, art and architecture. Its program emphasises social exchange, interactivity and public participation to produce a critical engagement with new media and culture. More info: 7  501(c) stands for tax-exempt non-profit organisation in the United States. Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)) provides that 29 types of non-profit organisations are exempt from some federal income taxes. Source: Wikipedia, 8  PROGRAM is a non-profit project aimed at testing the disciplinary boundaries of architecture through collaborations with other fields. Initiated in 2006 by Carson Chan and Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga, PROGRAM has provided a discursive platform for artists, architects, critics and curators to explore ideas through exhibitions, performances, workshops, lectures, and residencies. More info:


Inside the class room. © The Public School Berlin.

to pay the rent or teachers’ fees. At different times there has been the idea of each school sharing the burden of website hosting costs and of the maintenance of the platform those conversations have never made it too far. This approach might differentiate The Public School from the ‘free-school’ model as there isn’t an explicit mandate that it be free. It also distinguishes it from something like Trade School, which replaces one economic model (based on money), with another economic model (based on barter). My main concern is that the project be sustainable within a given context. FG: Also, it's obviously different when you decide to have your own space. This method of proposing a class and then making it real is really interesting. As you said before, people don't necessarily need to be experts if they want to teach something. Is that also the idea behind, as in the educational approach? Are there some theories that inspired you? CW: The schematic is fairly simple: people post things that they want to learn about or teach or want to see happen. Then, a group of people gathers around that topic and the committee assists in materialising that idea. The structure of a class — a lecture, a reading group, a hands-on workshop — emerges from how people want to approach a given concept, idea, knowledge, task, or whatever. However, it rarely happens that way, which is likely more a reflection you definitely learn upon the expectation of what a school, or cultural space, about how people deal should be, rather than the school’s internal logic. with knowledge in an FG: We did around fifty classes, and maybe three or four of them were taught by professional teachers. unfamiliar setting CW: Yes, every scenario plays out differently, it's not so much that it MUST be a peer-to-peer-system. Rather, it's about finding the best way to address a certain concept or idea at a given moment, in a given place. You may not always learn much about a certain topic, but you definitely learn about how people deal with knowledge in an unfamiliar setting! It can sometimes be very


frustrating, of course, but it can be fascinating to see how different people encounter one another and negotiate the terms of the relationship they are now engaged in. The committee or the person facilitating has some responsibility to calibrate that experience to be productive. FLH: There is often an ongoing negotiation while the class is unfolding. This happens during the meetings and online. It's not always predetermined how often a class will take place, or what shape the meetings will have. How has it been with the classes – is there and has there been a certain focus? I mean, a school without curriculum could be anything... FLH: Even though there are no rules on what kind of classes can take place here, a lot of classes end up revolving around some specific theoretical and political interests or questions. The school creates itself as it happens. People gather around the classes that are taking place and new proposals often come out of those contexts. But it doesn't have to be like that. FG: That’s specific to the school in Berlin, there are not so much hands-on-classes. But we did have a Situationist9 jogging class! (everyone laughs). FLH: And there was the Arabic language class for a few weeks in 2011, a Russian cinema class, among others… It just depends on the community that happens to gather around the school at certain times. CW: There is also a filtration built into the system. The committee is made of the three of us who are activating proposals they see as most interesting, or that they think would be important to see take place. Those classes can introduce new people to the project, who could subsequently join the committee. The focus changes over time, it is a slowly mutating organism. A certain agenda or set of concerns can be introduced by inviting someone to the committee who is different than those currently on it. I think it's something we were more attentive to in Los Angeles. We always wanted the committee to be as diverse as possible. This opens up the possibility to have a cocktail-making class and a critical theory seminar on the same day! In Berlin there has been a certain specificity since the majority of people involved come from the extended, and international, cultural landscape of Berlin. Additionally, most of the classes have been in English. These factors have influenced what takes place here. But, these features are emergent, they aren’t controlled exactly. In other words, there is no external hierarchical system determining what takes place. It's also the people who propose classes, right, so I guess if there are people interested in doing a cocktail class, they just suggest it. FLH: Yes. But then there is also the limitations of the space where we are hosted

9  Situationist theory, introduced by the artist group Situationist International, sees the situation as a tool for the liberation of everyday life, a method of negating the pervasive alienation that accompanied the spectacle. Source: Wikipedia,


at the moment. I know Fiona has been wanting to do a cheese-making class, for example, but we're not sure the facilities here can support that! (laughs) But anyone can propose anything, yes! How do you reach out to people, how do people know about The Public School? FG: We haven't been doing any kind of major publicity. It happens organically through the community of the school, somehow, and then through our newsletter, the website, the channels of the space that hosts us. How many people are involved in Berlin? CW: In Berlin, I think there are around 800 people who signed up on the website. Globally, there are around 10 000 registered users. I'm impressed! CW: Yeah, it is cool! But, I don’t know what that number means exactly. In Berlin, the project can only accommodate so many participants, not only in terms of how many people the room fits, but also in terms of how much can be organised. We are a very small committee with spatial restraints. That directly influences the amount of activity that can take place. It's a nice thing to support the idea of, of being able to attend interesting classes, to meet up with strangers and talk about philosophy and all sorts of things. Even if education is free in places like Germany and Finland, it doesn't mean that you can just walk into the university and take part in any lecture you want. CW: Right. It has to do with methodology. The Public the way to deal with the School has no curriculum. The removal, if you can call fact that our existing it that, of this typical aspect of education, questions how discourse is organised, communicated and institutions are failing circulated. That doesn't mean that it's a full-frontal us, is to build new ones attack on the current dominant educational system. that operate with The Public School is experimenting with what it different sensibilities means to be an educational space now, a space of politics, and a space of community-building. From my perspective, the way to deal with the fact that our existing institutions are failing us, is to build new ones that operate with different sensibilities. Have you been collaborating or in touch with other initiatives that are similar or that you're aware of? FLH: There have been a couple of occasions when we were invited to participate in exhibitions or discussions here in Berlin, so we got to meet some people who are involved in similar initiatives. CW: There is solidarity amongst different projects. But, it can be complex for the school to collaborate with other projects since it's already a collaborative framework.


You mentioned there is going to be another iteration coming up soon — what does the future of The Public School look like? FG: We occasionally organise a class called 'The Future of the Public School Berlin', which is mainly about gathering people around the school, re-introducing the project and trying to generate proposals on the spot that can later be turned into classes. That's basically how it is — as long as there are proposals, there will be classes, and there will be the school. FLH: These events are a good opportunity to get together, to introduce the project to a few new people who come by and generate some more input. CW: The school has, like all of the other schools, its own kind of character. I think with Berlin, with the specificity of the city of so many people coming and going, it's difficult to maintain a consistent level of energy. Also, we haven’t had any heating here for most of the winter, so that also informed our decisions on the programming (laughs). Spring will bring a burst of warmth and energy! The next iteration of the online platform of The Public School will explore some new organisational paradigms and motifs, as well as optimise the existing structure. After seven years, it feels like it is the right time to further the experiment and try something new. Thank you very much for the interview!

Outside the space hosting the classes. © The Public School Berlin.


The LABbers gather to exchange their experiences, ALM 2012 © Jan Ahlstedt.

Aalto LAB México (ALM) is a design-led project for social justice and environmental sustainability for 20 de Noviembre (20 NOV), a Mayan community located in Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico. ALM connects the community to academia, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and the public and private sectors of Mexico and Finland. Overall, ALM seeks a way out of the existing paradox of sustainable development, where developing countries must increase their energy consumption in order to become developed and where development is inherently unsustainable. ALM started in 2012 with a field trip to the Mayan community, 20 NOV, to explore initial challenges around drinking water, health, ecotourism and artisanal work. These themes were further explored and two projects started in 2014: the building of an Eco-hostel, and the development of the community’s artisanal brand, Crafts for Well-being, that can help raise funding for emergency health cases in the village. Claudia Garduño, MA, is a Doctoral Candidate at Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland and the project initiator and co-ordinator of Aalto Lab Mexico (ALM).

Case Study

Aalto Lab Mexico by Claudia Garduño, Aalto ARTS School of Arts, Design & Architecture, Aalto University

Purpose/aim of the project: According to the initiator, Tuuli Sotamaa, Aalto LAB is a project intended to be organised once a year in various locations around the world. Aalto LAB is about making the world a better place to live, and nothing less. Aalto LAB unites universities, companies, society and cities to work together on societal and important issues. The main values are sustainability, lifelong learning and the culture of sharing. The aim is to create concrete impacts on a specific theme.1 Aalto LAB is about: • creating a deep understanding of a foreign culture • building life-long relationships between people • working in multidisciplinary teams • thinking big • creating new tools for students to use in the future. Names of people involved: Claudia Garduño (doctoral student, initiator of ALM), Susu Nousala (postdoctoral researcher, course teacher at Aalto University), Tuuli Mattelmäki (Professor, Head of ENCORE research team), Zuleika de Alba (Head of Enterprise Relationships in Tec CCM, Enrique Ricalde (former Head of Research in UNAM-CIDI; nowadays Head of CIDI), Tiina Laurila (Head of Creative Sustainability Programme in Aalto University), Anne Lammila (Ambassador of Finland in Mexico), Norma Pensado (Ambassador of Mexico in Finland), Ofelia Cahuich (Head of the Wood artistry workshop in 20 NOV and wife of the former sheriff; gate keeper). See other contributors, including experts and students via the websites. Key stakeholders: In Mexico: Community 20 de Noviembre, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and Monterrey’s Institute of Technology Mexico City Campus (Tec CCM). In Finland: Aalto University. In both countries: the ‘LABbers’, experts and other contributors to ALM.

1  Speech by Tuuli Sotamaa at the Cumulus Conference at Tongji University in Shanghai, China, 6th -10th November 2010.


Geographic location: Community 20 de Noviembre, Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico Start date/Finish date: January 2012/ on-going Website or other online resource:;

BEGINNING What triggered the project? Aalto LAB was taken to Mexico as a case study for Claudia Garduño’s doctoral research, Design as Freedom.

we had to redefine poverty and acknowledge alternative types of richness

What was your motivation? I was interested in exploring how design could become a more ‘meaningful’ practice — whether it could be environmentally sustainable and socially just at the same time. It seemed like most things had to be thought from a different perspective, that we had to design for the ‘marginalised’ rather than for rich clients, and that we had to redefine poverty and acknowledge alternative types of richness.2 Aalto LAB Shanghai (ALS) allowed us to envision how this type of design practice could look like and Mexico was the logical location, given my personal network, social orientation, and commitment. How did the idea evolve? Since ALS did not get to the implementation phase, in the beginning it was not possible to define the reach of an Aalto LAB (whether it was only a diagnosis or the full process, and who would take charge of different parts). Throughout ALM, it has been possible to involve students, experts, facilitators and teachers in all different stages. So, ALM has now evolved to become a design-led project for the social justice and environmental sustainability of 20 NOV. What are/were the key organisational aspects and structures? ALM is a highly diverse project with different types of participants (Figure 1.). The LABbers are Bachelor and Master students in the fields of design, architecture,

2  Rather than seeing the community as poor and in need of help, we followed their own perspective of ‘being rich because they have everything they need’. They grow their own food and collect rainwater; in good environmental conditions, they are somewhat autonomous, self-sufficient. Of course, if something happens, like flooding because of hurricanes or large drought seasons, they are in trouble. They are extremely vulnerable to climatic change. See Chantiri, P., Sánchez de la B., Xaviera, Garduño, C., Nousala, S., and Rojas, O., 2014. Aalto LAB Mexico: Co-designing to maintain Ecosystem Services. Presented in the Indo-Dutch Conference 2014, Design for Sustainable Wellbeing and Empowerment in Bangalore, India from June 12th -14th 2014.


engineering, business, humanities and social sciences. They come from Aalto University in Finland, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and Monterrey’s Institute of Technology Mexico City Campus (Tec CCM). The LABbers are the main design team, they manage their own learning process but they get assistance from the facilitators and specific mentorship by the experts. The facilitators are designers from Mexico and Finland involved in academia and the private and public sectors. Their role is to assure that the LABbers move forward in their work, to encourage them to continue the process, and from time to time guide them on how to proceed through design methods (for example, design probes,3 ethnographic research). The experts belong to different specific fields, they are invited to be part of the LAB when their expertise is needed, and they might be from the academia, private and public sectors from Mexico and Finland. The role of experts is to help the LABbers approach specific questions and validate that their processes are on the right track; if there are elements that have not been considered, they also warn them and advise them (for example, about a specific law or socio-cultural norm). People from the community 20 NOV are participant end-users4 and local experts. With time they have become more tightly engaged with the projects and so have gone from mere informants to co-designers. ALM designs with(in) the community, but the people of 20 NOV are the ultimate users of the outcomes. Nothing gets done without their consent.

Fieldtrip ALM 2013 © Jan Ahlstedt.

Summer Workshop ‘Challenging the Mindset’ in 2013 in Helsinki © Jan Ahlstedt.

3  Mattelmäki, T., 2006. Design Probes. Helsinki: TAIK Books. 4  See Garduño, C., Nousala, S., and Fuad-Luke, A., .2014. Aalto LAB Mexico: Exploring an Evolving Poly-disciplinary & Design Pedagogy for Community Wellbeing and Empowerment with (in) a Mayan Community. Presented in the IndoDutch Conference 2014, Design for Sustainable Wellbeing and Empowerment in Bangalore, India from June 12-14 2014.


Figure 1. Aalto LAB Mexico 2013 showing the relationships between the LABBERSt, facilitator and experts connected to the local projects in 20 NOV. © Claudia Garduño.

Since ALM is also a teaching and research project, the academic researchers involved (doctoral students, postdoctoral students and professors) have been part of it from the beginning. Their work is assisted by an expert photographer and a filmmaker for the documentation process. Furthermore, teachers within each university have found ways in which their students can officially validate their participation in ALM. Is/was the organisation informal or formal ? Informal. Target audience and network(s)? The community 20 NOV is the prime audience. Other audiences and essential parts of the ALM network are: LABbers, experts, facilitators, Aalto University, Monterrey’s Institute of Technology (Tec CCM), the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and the Government of Mexico. Lastly, the field of design (researchers, academics and practitioners) is also considered as an audience. Key funding/financial aspects - Finances: Is/was there funding involved? Yes, there were many funders. Tuuli Mattelmäki (who got the first grant for ALM), Zuleika de Alba (who granted financing to ALM), Enrique Ricalde (who has supported his students’ trips), Tiina Laurila (who ‘adopted’ ALM as an academic project in her programme, Creative Sustainability Masters level course, Aalto University), Anne Lammila (who has supported the project and allowed it to host its 2013


presentation at the Residence of Finland in Mexico), Norma Pensado (who highly supports ALM, has helped obtaining funding and granted an exhibition space for September 2014). The main sponsors have been the universities through various departments: Aalto University (Aalto Service Factory; Aalto International Relations; Aalto ARTS International Affairs; Aalto Design Factory; Aalto Global Impact); TecCCM (Business Relations, Eurocentre, Engineering and Architecture School); UNAM (Research Centre on Industrial Design); and Transformadora ciel (crowdfunding) where funds were raised towards the building of the Eco-hostel.5 Thanks to these sponsors students have been able to travel from Finland all the way to the community in the Yucatan Peninsula. How did you get people participating? By telling them about the project’s aims and inviting them to be part of it. The selection processes for choosing the LABbers is still developing.

ACTING & DOING What are or were the key activities? Building a network by contacting universities, departments, selecting students, getting funding, gaining access to the community by identifying an appropriate one, establishing contact, asking for permission, field trips, trust building by showing commitment, preparation activities to sensitise the LABbers prior to the field trips. One week field trips to 20 NOV with the LABbers (in ALM 2012, ALM 2013 and ALM 2014 to build the Eco-hostel), where they worked within the community and the wider ALM network. Other field trips for key facilitators, organisers and network people prior to the LABbers’ visits. Crowdfunding to build the Eco-hostel. What are or were the key approach & methods? The project is presented to the interdisciplinary and intercultural team as a projectbased learning experience. Throughout the process, we introduce design methods and frameworks6 and especially during the field trips the process is led/mentored by professional design facilitators: Greg Perez and Hei Cheng from IDEO design agency7 in 2012, and Alastair Fuad-Luke, Aalto University in 2013.

5  The construction of the Eco-hostel was funded through the crowdfunding platform Transformadora ciel, http:// 6  IDEO, 2011. Human-Centred Design Toolkit: An Open-Source Toolkit To Inspire New Solutions in the Developing World. Available at Fuad-Luke, A. et. al., .2012. designCAPITALIA launched at the Open Knowledge Festival (OKF) in Helsinki, Finland, in September 2012. Available at window 874’s blog: Mattelmäki, T., 2006. Design Probes. Helsinki: TAIK Books. 7


What is/was essential for practical matters? The multidisciplinary diversity is key to how the LABbers approach the subjects. People from humanities and social sciences were essential in the very first stage, when they researched about the community before their visit. Soon enough the LABbers encountered topics such as development or the indigenous towns, and they realised how difficult those discussions are. Business students had more difficulties to engage in these types of projects, but during their visit to the field, they quickly identified opportunities that people in the community could not see (mainly about the use of resources). Engineering students struggled in the beginning, at the fuzzy front end of the project, but once the projects were conceptualised, they were enthusiastic in making them happen. Designers and their approaches allowed the team to feel confident when going through messy processes. People in 20 NOV appreciated that the team accompanied them throughout the whole process. What are/were the key communication channels and methods? Digital tools such as Skype, Dropbox, and Google Docs became highly relevant especially when each team is in their own country. Other apps, such as Whatsapp and Facebook have been very important for the communication with people from 20 Nov. Face-to-face communication with the community involved diverse ethnographic and design tools, including design probes, semi-structured interviews, co-design workshops, design and the making of prototypes and models.

Figure 2. The co-design process within Aalto Lab Mexico Š Xaviera Sånchez de la Barquera.


Media use and efficacy? Facebook and Wordpress have allowed the dissemination of ALM by itself, but the incorporation of video material on the Aalto Creative Sustainability website has possibly been most useful. During the crowdfunding campaign, there was also a national publication in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada. What are/were the outcomes with reference to the target audience? The outcomes were different according to the audience. For 20 NOV, the construction of the Eco-hostel, its early community management administration, and the testing of the health stamp for the Crafts for Wellbeing8 project, are key outcomes. LABbers went through experiential learning in the field trips, they gained academic credits, and social community services credits for Mexican students. The experts and facilitators who participated in ALM activities at all levels enjoyed mutual experiential learning and made new contacts. Throughout 2012-2014 ALM engaged with the academic communities in Finland, Mexico and overseas through the production of seminars, an exhibition in Helsinki and by the adoption of ALM by the Creative Sustainability Masters programme at Aalto University. Results were disseminated by making presentations at international conferences. What are/were the impacts - target audience and wider? • For 20 NOV: Encouragement and empowerment to tackle their own problems from within, relationships with members of the network, international experience. • For the LABbers: Learning to design projects that aim for social justice and environmental sustainability, friendships, deep understanding of other cultures, encouragement to become social entrepreneurs. • For the experts and facilitators: the opportunity to apply their expertise in a different context. • For the design field: New perspectives on the practice of design. For the government of Mexico: alternative approaches to development policies.

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is/was the project sustained? First, by being part of a mid-term process in a doctoral studies programme, then by

8  This is the strategy for the artisans to gain access to the health care system. First, they are encouraged to communicate the stories behind their products, which might also make them more valuable to the buyers’ eyes. Then, there is the health stamp, certifying that certain products contribute to this strategy. Each artisan can label whichever product; the label raises its price. The buyer can choose whether to buy the product at its normal price, or get the one with the stamp and pay a bit extra. The extra money that a buyer pays goes to a common fund for emergencies. Once they have collected enough for emergencies, they can try and save enough to pay a fee that could grant them access to the health care system. If the program runs for a long period of time, the artisans could evaluate the possibility to form a company and pay regular taxes as it is done in urban areas.


finding gaps in the universities’ structures that would allow the LAB to each year. It is highly important to point out that the LAB has mainly been maintained thanks to the original involvement of highly committed people who truly believed in the cause and who do it more because of passion than because of whatever they might get in return. What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? Human, social, commercial, and natural. Is it self-sustaining now or will it be in the future? Not yet, but we hope to achieve that in the future by bringing in other people and organisations to work with the community, such as other water experts, and an NGO with expertise in rural internet installation. We also want to achieve an even greater level of engagement from the people of 20 NOV. Are you happy with the project? Yes, very much. Would you change anything? First of all, the people who get involved have to be socially committed people, meaning that the selection processes have to be able to show this. I would like to find ways to involve the LABbers for longer periods than six months, the greatest learning comes from experiencing the full process of around two years.

Activities during one of the field trips at Aalto Mexico Lab in 2013. © Jan Ahlstedt.


Was the project as you expected or did you encounter anything unexpected? I expected to find more openness in some departments at the universities, but it was not always the case. In the beginning, the project seemed too risky and we did not have full official support. In the end, this might have been the only reason why the project succeeded, because rather than being the university’s project, it became the extended LABbers' project, the community's and others team’s project. Individuals created bonds with other individuals, so trust was created, which made it possible to continue. Is the project scalable? Absolutely. Everything in the world could be improved. It seems like having a team of diverse people to visit a specific location to learn about the existing living conditions and greatest challenges, to then envision together how to make things better, is a good way to make things happen. It could work even in developed nations. What are your future plans? To ‘leave the field’ when we see that people from 20 NOV have taken over the community projects, or, that they have constructed the necessary relationships within their networks to take care of them. We could move to a new context and start new projects with(in) other communities.9

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? So far, the construction of the Eco-hostel, involving around forty people. The health stamp will soon be tested, having involved around twenty-five people. What capacity did you build? How did you change people’s lives? In general, it could be said that Mexico has had a paternalist approach to development policies. Nowadays, it is still not clear for the government how to work with and for the indigenous populations, historically, the ones that are most marginalised. As a result, indigenous towns are used to this paternalist, top-down, approach — telling them what to do and giving them all necessary resources. By co-designing with(in) 20 Nov, the people from the community who have been more closely involved appreciate that ALM has accompanied them from the diagnosis at the beginning all the way to the implementation of actual projects. We

9  Mexico is the 14th world largest economy (World Bank 2013), but out of its total population of nearly 112 million people (INEGI 2010), 52 million people (CONEVAL 2012) live in poverty and they are spread within the 2 456 municipalities among 32 different states (INEGI 2013)…so there are plenty of opportunities to work with other communities. Aalto LAB can also be applied to other ‘developing countries’ and, perhaps, could even focus on challenges in the urbanised western countries too.


could say that we are empowering them to design their own strategies by first codesigning with them. It is too soon to say whether we will truly achieve it, but at least, at the moment, it seems that we are on the right track. All the members of the design team have stories to share. Many defined the LAB as a life-changing experience and said they gained an understanding of the real challenges in the world. They questioned their own ways of living; in the most extreme cases, they got inspired to take new paths in their professional lives. Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? I think so.

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned? There are a lot of different people in the world. What we do is appreciated by many, out of which many have the wish to participate. At the same time, knock on doors, many people see the world in a very different way and wouldn’t many will open necessarily see our project as very valuable. Trying to convince everyone to support the project is naïve. It is important to understand that sets of values are different. Having official support from an organisation or an institution was very desirable, however, being independent allowed the team to design its own project. Only those who visit the field are sensitive enough as to make decisions, therefore, top management seems threatening. The only reason why the project has been successful, is that it has been made through a horizontal structure, from people to people through a grassroots approach. What can be given as advice for the readers? Trust is highly relevant. It has to be built within the community, but also amongst students and experts. No one should be forced to participate, people have to be willing to do it. A lot more people than one would expect are ready to participate. Knock on doors, many will open.


The eco-hostel during the building phase. Š Miriam Cahuich.

The final outcome. Š Miriam Cahuich.


Screenshot from the website.

The Women’s Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit is a new guide for women’s rights activists, advocates, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations who want to use technology tools and practices in their campaigning. This toolkit was collaboratively developed by Tactical Technology Collective (TTC)1 to support a community of activists and advocates and their organisations in their work, specifically the partners of the New Voices New Leaders project led by the feminist organisation CREA.2 Maya Indira Ganesh, see p. 172, Tactical Technology Collective. Lisa Gutermuth has previously focused on land grabbing, crowd mapping, and e-waste for different projects at TTC and with affiliated organisations. Currently she is working with the Evidence and Action Programme and with the Women’s Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit. Offline you can find her gardening, reading books with tangible pages, or baking bread. She is currently finishing her masters in Agricultural Economics at Humboldt-Universität, Berlin and is involved in urban gardening projects around the city.

Case Study

Women’s Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit by Maya Indira Ganesh and Lisa Gutermuth, Tactical Technology Collective

Purpose/aim of the project: The aims of the project are to actively involve women leaders from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa in processes of peace-building, security and reconstruction, and to enhance the participation of women in politics and public administration.3 Names of people/organisations involved: CREA and Tactical Technology Collective. The development of the Info-Activism campaigning toolkits is one of the activities within CREA’s New Voices / New Leaders: Women Building Peace and Reshaping Democracy project. It has been developed by Tactical Technology Collective in coordination with: Forum for Women, Law and Development (Nepal), Nagarik Awaaz for Peace (Nepal), The Centre for Development Services (CDS) (Egypt), Naripokkho (Bangladesh), Women’s Empowerment Link (Kenya), The YP Foundation (India). The Info-Activism Toolkit website and booklets were designed by La Loma,4 Berlin. Geographic location: There are three regional areas of focus where the collaborative partners for the project are based: in South Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh), East Africa (Kenya) and the Arab region (Egypt). So, the toolkit has been translated into Hindi, Bengali, Swahili, and Arabic. However, the website remains online and therefore has worldwide outreach. Supported by: This project was supported by CREA as part of their programme New Voices / New Leaders: Women Building Peace and Reshaping Democracy.

1  TTC is an international NGO that works with human rights activists, advocacy groups, journalists and other political actors in using technology and information safely and strategically. More info 2  CREA is a New Delhi based feminist organisation that builds the capacities of women’s rights organisations in India and internationally through a series of learning institutes, publications and community-based projects. More info: 3 4


Start date/Finish date: August 2012-December 2014. Website or other online source: and

BEGINNING What triggered the project? Tactical Tech's work has focused on developing resources for activists to use digital technology, such as social media, crowdsourcing, or mobiles in their campaigning. This project was based on an earlier resource developed by Tactical Tech which was then turned into something new, updated and relevant to a specific community. The original guides we produced were called Message in a Box and Mobiles in a Box.5 CREA approached us to update and customise our toolkits for women’s rights communities, as there weren’t any specialist toolkits about digital tools for advocacy and campaigning focused on the women's rights activism community. What was your motivation? Tactical Tech has worked on capacity building and using digital tools for activism for years. As online tools and technology develop quickly, our materials constantly need to be updated. Thus, it was a great opportunity to update our older material and to shape it for a specific community of activists. How did the idea evolve and how is this reflected in the content produced? Tactical Tech was looking for opportunities to update and revise our old toolkits and guides around the same time that CREA wanted to bring in a partner on the New Voices New Leaders project to provide digital campaigning resources — so it was a happy coincidence! The central piece of the project is a website and a series of printed booklets. The website content is organised in the following way: ‘Basics’: this is about foundational aspects of campaigning, it was sourced and updated from a 2009 toolkit we produced called 10 Tactics for Turning Information into Action.6 It describes the importance of mapping audiences and actors. ‘Strategies’: this describes different approaches to strategic thinking in campaigning by focusing on the outcomes campaigners want from their audiences — to learn

5 and 6 (see archived old site for original 10 tactics)


about and connect to an issue in different stages, from a general interest to a more specific engagement, Grab Attention, 'Tell a Story'; and 'Inspire Action.' ‘Tools’: is a set of detailed how-to profiles of technologies and digital tools that can be used in digital campaigning. ‘Examples’: this shows many ways in which the highlighted strategies and tools have been implemented in different settings, which could serve as inspiration for audiences. The website is available in English, Swahili, Arabic, Hindi and Bengali to reach different ethnic and linguistic communities. Printed booklets in each of these languages are being prepared to accompany trainings and workshops done by individual project partners. Target audience and network(s): Women’s rights activists, advocates, NGOs and community-based organisations partnering with CREA in three regional areas of focus: South Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh), East Africa (Kenya), and the Arab region (Egypt). Key organisational aspects - Organisational structures: A project starts with a discussion with the project staff on ideas, as well as the specific deliverables and commitments we have associated with the funding we receive. A Project Coordinator, with the support and guidance of the Programme Director, pushes the project forward and connects all of the different working parts — internal web development, production project team; writers, researchers and reviewers and editors; external designers and web developments; external translators and reviewers; external printing press; the funding organisation and partners. One of the initiators of the project knew and had worked with CREA as a consultant and partner many years before. More recently, CREA was interested in partnering with Tactical Tech because they liked our work and wanted to find a way to promote and support technology and information activism for women's rights activists and feminist actors. When CREA was applying for this grant (for the New Voices New Leaders project), they reached out to us at Tactical Tech to ask if we wanted to partner with them and be supported to developed toolkits for the women's rights activists who were the other partners on the project. This invitation came at a time when we, at Tactical Tech, were trying to figure out how and if we should be developing our older toolkits like Message in a Box and Mobiles in a Box. We realised that the technology was outdated and that they needed some new lease of life and identity to respond to changes in how activists are using technology. The CREA support therefore came at a very opportune time. Is/was the organisation informal or formal? Tactical Tech is a ‘formal’ medium sized non-profit NGO.


ACTING & DOING What are/were the key activities? In this project, we went through the following phases with the support of these different people: the Tactical Tech project team, an external technical consultant who edits FLOSS manuals7 for NGOs, our internal web development team, an external web design team, external translators and reviewers, local partners and designers and printers in Bangalore, India. •

• • •

• • • • • • •

• • • •

Spot assessments with the target audience(s) and partner organisations to understand their context, needs and current technology use patterns and campaign contexts. Reviewing content of old toolkits and guides for relevance to the women's rights campaigning context in East Africa, South Asia and the Arab Region. Reviewing technical content of old toolkits and guides for relevance and suitable changes Developing an organising principle for new content online and translating this into the Information Architecture (IA) for a website; identifying specifications for the website for the present and the future, where four other language versions will have to be developed. Researching, writing, re-writing new content; editing content. Developing a design brief based on ideas for the IA. Reviewing designs for the IA. Build and development the website, and uploading content onto the new website and testing the website; website styling as needed. Internal soft launch of website for review and comments from other staff and colleagues; building in comments; final proofing and review of content. Website launch, ongoing outreach and communication with partners and other audiences online and offline. Working on new language content — reviewing content for cultural specificity; translating into other languages and then having the translated content reviewed by a different set of reviewers. Relevant technical tweaks for new language versions and uploading new language content onto website. Promotion, outreach and communication with new language versions. Discussing ideas for print toolkits; we had to rationalise how much content we could put into print. Reviewing content for print — tweaks and edits to the content as needed.

7  FLOSS Manuals is more than a collection of manuals about free and open-source software, it is also the community. The contributors include designers, readers, writers, illustrators, free software fans, editors, artists, software developers, activists, and many others. Anyone can contribute to a manual — to fix a spelling mistake, add a more detailed explanation, write a new chapter, or start a whole new manual on a topic. More info:


• • •

Design and layout with designers. Print and distribution. Monitoring and evaluation of the reception of the printed booklets.

What are/were the key approach & methods? This project involved updating and upcycling older toolkits and content we had produced for entirely new audiences, and producing new language versions. In addition to re-framing old content for new audiences, we also created a new organising principle for the content. Most importantly, the content had to be relevant and useful for audiences whose experience with digital technologies and campaigning is minimal. The main approaches and methods were listening to and responding to audience needs, balanced out by our own design and technical ideas and inspirations. How did you get people participating? The partners were already in place from the onset of the project. When one has partners at the regional or local level, an exchange already exists, where we can ask each other for input or advice on certain steps in the project, and we already have our established networks to share with. What is/was essential for practical matters? It was essential to have a network of translators available, graphic designers, web developers, good internet connectivity, and a supportive network of knowledgeable people to ask for input and advice.

Screenshot from the website: Tools.


What are/were the key communication channels and methods? Email, VOIP,8 etherpads,9 dropboxes.10 Media use and efficacy? The website was shared on social media, and there was a definite transfer of ownership once the website was translated. The partner organisations, as well as other civil society organisations in those regions picked up the toolkit and shared it widely with their networks. It was also featured in publications such as Global Voices.11

there was a definite transfer of ownership once the website was translated

What are/were the outcomes with reference to the target audience? The toolkits still have to be printed and distributed before we will really start to do focused evaluation, but the reactions and excitement about the website are very encouraging. It has been featured in blogs and publications as discussed, but what is very encouraging is that according to web analytics, individuals feel inspired to share it directly with their peers through email and social media. Some tweets include: “Brilliant, thorough and clear set of campaign, storytelling and activism tools for women's rights” from @info_activism “Beautifully designed women's rights campaigning toolkit” from @info_activism and CREA “Amazing tools for #activists now translated in #Arabic, #Kiswahili, and #Hindi”, @ info_activism".

Our partners have been very positive and communicative about planning different ways to use the toolkit in workshops once it is printed and sent.

8  VOIP: Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a methodology and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the internet. Other terms commonly associated with VoIP are IP telephony, Internet telephony, voice over broadband (VoBB), broadband telephony, IP communications, and broadband phone service. 9  Etherpad allows you to edit documents collaboratively in real-time, much like a live multi-player editor that runs in your browser. 10  However, recently we have tried to move away from Dropbox,, as there have been leaks and breaches of their system, and the information on Dropbox is open to surveillance and monitoring. We encourage the development of custom solutions with OwnCloud,, or SpiderOak,, for more secure file sharing. 11  Global Voices: We are a borderless, largely volunteer community of more than 800 writers, analysts, online media experts and translators. Global Voices has been leading the conversation on citizen media reporting since 2005. We curate, verify and translate trending news and stories you might be missing on the internet, from blogs, independent press and social media in 167 countries. and introducing-the-womens-rights-campaigning-info-activism-toolkit


What are/were the impacts — target audience and wider? High numbers of visitors access our website from countries represented by our partners (Egypt and Kenya), where the issues are most pressing, but there is also a lot of interest from visitors from India, Germany and the USA where there are large online audiences engaged in these topics.

World map of website visits from January-August 2014.

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is/was the project sustained? Tactical Tech has a very vibrant network that has built up over many years of work, which allows us to promote new products and materials. However, outreach is just one part of getting our work out to the right this case study is an audiences. Materials around digital campaigning example of how an older need attending too, for updates and revisions, as this field moves really fast. Funding is also a chalproject found a new lease lenge, especially when certain themes or issues of life in a new avatar are no longer topical. All this said, this case study is an example of how an older project found a new lease of life in a new avatar. We took an opportunity for support and turned it into something that helped create something new while we were able to sustain and take forward something old! What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? Lots of human capital, as well as financial, social and technical.


Is it self-sustaining now or will it be in the future? When the toolkits are distributed to the partners, they will work on the outreach in their own areas. The website is an educational platform that is accessed by many different communities. We find that our projects continue to receive interest from new users and communities because of our well-established network. Are you happy with the project? Yes, it has been really well-received and it provides a lot of useful information and recommendations for effective campaigning. It also made us aware of how little there is by way of digital tools for campaigning for the women's rights activism and advocacy community worldwide. Would you change anything? More funding always helps! Was the project as you expected or did you encounter anything unexpected? It was essentially as expected. However, the positive response to it has been overwhelming. Is the project scalable? Yes, and in fact it is licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.12 Thus, it can be shared, translated, and re-mixed for different audiences as long as Tactical Tech is credited. This project is in itself a good example of how something old got remixed and upcycled into something new. What are your future plans? Future plans are still to conduct monitoring and evaluation, and see if at the end of this project period there are new opportunities within the realm of women’s rights digital advocacy.

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? For example, what was ‘produced’? How many people were involved? There will be a toolkit, consisting of four around forty pages booklets in five languages (English, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, and Swahili). These will be based on ‘Basics’, and the three groups of Strategies: ‘Grab Attention’, ‘Tell a Story’, and ‘Inspire Action’. The website is already published and used by individuals and organisations working in the field of women’s rights.



To produce this there were eight translators (four to translate, four to review), three coordinators at different phases in the project’s life-cycle, a programme director, two web developers, six designers, one printer, one copy-editor, and probably about fourteen people from the partner organisations to test the content and give us advice at different stages of the production. What are the key outcomes and impacts? What capacity did you build? How did you change people’s lives? We're yet to do the project’s monitoring and evaluation, and the print booklets are not ready yet. The online response has been phenomenal though. Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? Yes.

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned? There was a learning curve to realise the scale of the project and the amount of work that it would take to produce essentially five websites and five toolkits within a small time frame with limited capacities. That said, there were changes that could have been made early on to make the building process a bit more to size with the resources that were available. The upside is that for the user, the toolkits became very comprehensive and detailed. What can be given as advice for the readers? When conducting any project with specific timelines, is to be as clear and precise as possible with those that you’re working with. This includes having and keeping clear deadlines, making listed expectations and deliverables, and sometimes ‘showing’ what you mean rather than telling. For example, showing screenshots can be more helpful than a fifteen minutes conversation describing them.



Starting A Trade School by Trade School New York1

Trade School is an alternative, self-organised school that runs on barter. It works like this: 1) Teachers propose classes and ask for barter items from students. For example, if you teach a class about making butter, you might ask students to bring heavy cream, jars, bread, music tips, clothes, vegetables, or, alternatively you might ask for help with something like finding an apartment to rent. 2) Students sign up for classes by agreeing to bring a barter item for the teacher. Trade School is for people who value hands-on knowledge, mutual respect, and the social nature of exchange. Trade School believes that everyone has something to offer.

1  Editors’ note: This manual was kindly provided by Trade School New York and can be found on the web together with a more detailed PDF here: 2  Which can be found here:


The Trade School network is made of self-organised barter-for-knowledge schools across the world. It started in 2010 with a small group of friends in New York and spread to Virginia, United States and Milan, Italy in 2011. In 2012, a better version of the barter-for-knowledge web platform was built so that it could be shared with organisers elsewhere. If you want to organise a Trade School in your area, you can simply follow these instructions:

How do I start a Trade School? 1) You learn more about Trade School via our website and our pdf.2 2) You make sure that you are aligned with our basic principles: WHAT? 1. Trade School is a learning experiment where teachers barter with students. 2. Trade School is not free. We believe in the power of non-monetary value and exchange. 3. We place equal value on big ideas, practical skills, and experiential knowledge. WHY? 1. Everyone has something to offer. 2. We are actively working to create safe spaces for people and ideas. 3. We want more spaces made by and for the people who use them. HOW? 1. Trade School runs on mutual respect. 2. We avoid hoarding leadership by sharing responsibilities and information. 3. We are motivated by integrity, not coercion. 4. Our organisation is always learning and evolving. 3) You find friends and neighbours who want to help open a local Trade School with you, as these people will add energy and information to your school. Plus, organising a school alone is tiring, boring, and against the principles of cooperation. 4) You fill out the form on the TS website, telling us where you are located and your reasons for organising a Trade School in your area. 5) An organiser contacts you, sharing information and giving you a Trade School website for your area (for example, that allows you to schedule classes, coordinate with other organisers, accept and approve class proposals from teachers, make forms for students to sign up for classes and receive emails, and tell the world about what you’re doing. You make your own logo. 6) You start your own Trade School! 7) You keep in touch with Trade School organisers internationally, letting everyone know what did and didn’t work, while helping new Trade Schools open.

Inês Laranjeira - 'Sou especialista em curiosidade não especializada’, by Agostinho da Silva.



sharing Acts, actions or reciprocal relations between individuals, groups and communities to enjoy and enrich something together (time, objects, experiences, etc.) based on respectful mutuality, interdependency, openness and generosity.


David Bollier is an author, activist and independent scholar whose work has focused on the commons since the late 1990s. He is co-founder of the Commons Strategies Group and an author or editor of seven books on different aspects of the commons, including Think Like a Commoner, Green Governance and The Wealth of the Commons. Bollier blogs at and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.



The Commons as a Different Way of Seeing and Being by David Bollier

Editors’ note: Reproduced by kind permission from New Society Publishers as an extract from Think Like A Commoner. A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons. (NSP, 2014)

We are very sorry, but this essay can only be included in the printed copy of the book due to copyright restrictions from New Society Publishers.


Michel Bauwens is the founder and director of the P2P Foundation and works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property. He is a founding member of the Commons Strategies Group, with Silke Helfrich and David Bollier, who have organised major global conferences on the commons and economics. In the first semester of 2014, Michel Bauwens was research director of the research group, which produced the first integrated Commons Transition Plan for the government of Ecuador, in order to create policies for a ‘social knowledge economy’. In January 2015 was launched. Commons Transition builds on the work of the FLOK Society and features newly revised and updated, non-region specific versions of these policy documents. Commons Transition aims toward a society of the Commons that would enable a more egalitarian, just, and environmentally stable world.



Are there alternatives beyond the market? by Michel Bauwens

Introduction From January to June 2014, the author of this essay was the Research Director, at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (IAEN), a public university of Quito. He directed an innovative commons-oriented transition experiment that is the potential creation of a social knowledge economy, an economy based on the sharing of knowledge in open commons, for a number of Ecuadorian public institutions. The FLOK Society1 was a joint research effort by the Coordinating Ministry of Knowledge and Human Talent (with Minister Guillaume Long), the National Secretary of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (SENESCYT with Minister RenÊ Ramirez) and the IAEN (with Rector Carlos Prieto) to develop transition and policy proposals to achieve an open commons-based knowledge society. FLOK refers to: Free, meaning freedom to use, distribute and modify knowledge in universally available common pools; L   ibre stresses that it concerns free as in freedom, not as in gratis; Open refers to the ability of all citizens to access, contribute to and use this common resource; Knowledge. A free, libre and open knowledge society therefore essentially means organizing every sector of society, to the maximum degree possible, into open knowledge commons. This implies the availability of common pools of knowledge, code and design that are accessible to all citizens and market entities, to create dynamic and innovative societies and economies, where knowledge is available without discrimination to all who need it to develop their civic and economic activities.

1  Flok Society,


The aim of the Commons Transition Plan2 was to combine the best advice from the global commons and Ecuadorian civil society, in order to propose an integrated transition plan and the associated policy framework and proposals. In this particular context, the project looked also beyond the state-market dichotomy, and inquired into non-market alternatives. The following concerns a proposal to create ethical entrepreneurial coalitions that start to apply internal mutual coordination based on sharing their logistical and accounting information.

The Key Proposal: Introducing a new reciprocity-based licensing model The labour, peer-to-peer (p2p), commons and other social change movements today are faced with a paradox. On the one hand, especially after the global financial meltdown of 2008, we have a re-emergence of the cooperative movement and worker-owned enterprises, but they suffer from structural weaknesses. Cooperative entities work for their own members. They are often reluctant to accept new co-operators that would share existing profits and benefits, and are practitioners of the same proprietary knowledge and artificial scarcities as their capitalist counterparts. Even though they are internally democratic, they often participate in the same dynamics of capitalist competition, which undermines their own cooperative values. On the other hand, we have an emergent field of open and commons-oriented peer production in fields such as free software, open design and open hardware, which do create common pools of knowledge for the whole of humanity, but at the same time, are dominated by both start-ups and large multinational enterprises using the same digital/immaterial commons.3 Thus, we need a new convergence or synthesis, an ‘open cooperativism’, that combines both commons-oriented open peer production models, with common ownership and governance models such as those of the cooperatives and the solidarity economic models. What follows is a more detailed argument on how such a transition could be achieved. Today we have a paradox. Part of that paradox is that the more communistic4 the sharing license we use in the peer production of free software or open hardware, the more capitalistic the practice, for example, the Linux commons becoming a

2  Flok Society, 2014. Research Plan. Available at: 3  I am talking about actual commons, not internet infrastructure, which is not a commons; these real commons of knowledge, code and design, can be used by capital, but they are still commons (available to all, open to contribution to all). 4  I refer specifically to the classic definition of communism from the 19th century: from each according to their contribution, to all according to their need. In this case, it is neither communal nor communist.


corporate commons enriching IBM and the like. It works in a certain way and it seems acceptable to most free software developers, but is it the only way? Indeed, the General Public License5 and its variants allow anyone to use and modify the software code (or design), as long as the changes are also put back in the common pool under the same conditions for further users. This is in fact technically ‘communism’ as popularised by Marx: ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’, but which then paradoxically allows multinationals to use the free software code for profit and capital accumulation. The result is that we do have an accumulation of immaterial commons, based on open input, participatory process, and commons-oriented output, but that it is subsumed to capital accumulation. It is at present not possible, or not easy, to have social reproduction (i.e. livelihoods) within the sphere of the commons. Hence the free software and culture movements are also ‘liberal’ in essence, yet they are important as new social forces and an expression of new social demands. This is not only acknowledged by its leaders such as Richard Stallman,6 but also by anthropological studies like those of Gabriela Coleman.7 Not so tongue-in-cheek we could say they are liberal-communist and communist-liberal movements, which create a ‘communism of capital’. Is there an alternative? We believe there is, and this would be to replace nonreciprocal licenses that do not demand a direct reciprocity from its users, with licences based on reciprocity.8 Call it a switch from ‘communist’, to ‘socialist’ licenses’. This is the choice of the Peer Production License (PPL)9 as designed and proposed by Dmytri Kleiner; not to be confused with the Creative Commons Non Commercial license (CC-NC), as the logic is different. The logic of the CC-NC is to offer protection to individuals reluctant to share, as they do not wish a commercialisation of their work that would not reward them for their labour. Thus the Creative Commons ‘Non-Commercial’ license stops further

5  ‘The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or GPL) is the most widely used free software license, which guarantees end users (individuals, organizations, companies) the freedoms to use, study, share (copy), and modify the software. Software that allows these rights is called free software and, if the software is copylefted, then it also requires that this be retained. The GPL demands both.’ More information at: Wikipedia, 2014. GNU General Public Release. Available at: 6  ‘Richard Matthew Stallman is a software freedom activist and computer programmer. He campaigns for software to be distributed in a manner such that a user receiving it likewise receives with it the freedoms to use, study, distribute and modify that software. […] He is best known for launching the GNU Project, founding the Free Software Foundation, developing the GNU Compiler Collection and GNU Emacs, and writing the GNU General Public License.’ More information at: Wikipedia 2014. Richard Stallman. Available at 7  Coleman, E. G. 2012. Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking. New Jersey, USA: Princeton University Press. Enid Gabriella Coleman (usually known as Gabriella Coleman or ‘Biella’) is an anthropologist, academic and author whose work focuses on hacker culture and online activism, particularly Anonymous. She currently holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific & Technological Literacy at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. More information at: Wikipedia 2014. Gabriella Coleman. Available at 8  In general, the commons require ‘general reciprocity’ between the user and the commons, but no ‘direct’ reciprocity between individuals. This is the distinction between the commons and the gift economy, in the latter, direct reciprocity is required. 9  More information at: P2P Foundation, 2014. Peer Production Licence.


economic development based on this open and shared knowledge, and keeps it entirely in the not-for-profit sphere. The logic of the PPL is to allow commercialisation, but on the basis of a demand for reciprocity. It is designed to enable and empower a counter-hegemonic reciprocal economy that combines commons that are open to all that contribute, while charging a license fee for the for-profit companies who want to use without contributing. Not that much changes for the multinationals in practice, they can still use the code if they contribute, as IBM does with Linux, and those who don’t would pay a license fee, a commercial practice they are used to. This would direct a stream of income from capitalist organisations to the commons, but its main effect would be axiological or if you like, value-driven. The entrepreneurial coalitions that are linked around a PPL commons would be explicitly oriented towards their contributions to the commons and the alternative value system that it represents. From the point of view of the peer producers or commoners, i.e. the communities of contributors to the common pool resources, it would allow them to create their own cooperative entities, in which profit would be subsumed to the social goal of sustaining the commons and the commoners. Even the participating for-profit companies would consciously contribute under a new logic. It links the commons to an entrepreneurial coalition of ethical market entities (cooperatives and other models), and it keeps the surplus value entirely within the sphere of commoners/co-operators instead of leaking out to the multinationals. In other words, through this convergence or rather combination of a commons model for abundant immaterial resources, and a reciprocity-based model for ‘scarce’ material resources, the issue of livelihoods and social reproduction would be solved, and surplus value is kept inside the commons sphere itself. It is the cooperatives that would, through their cooperative accumulation, fund the production of immaterial commons, because they would pay and reward the peer producers associated with them. In this way, peer production would move from a proto-mode of production, unable to perpetuate itself on its own outside capitalism, to an autonomous and real mode of production. It creates a counter-economy that can be the basis for reconstituting a ‘counter-hegemony’ with a for-benefit circulation of value, which allied to pro-commons social movements, could be the basis of the political and social transformation of the political economy. Hence we move from a situation in which the communism of capital is dominant, to a situation in which we have financial10 ‘capital for the commons’, increasingly insuring the self-reproduction of the peer production mode. The PPL is used experimentally by Guerrilla Translation11 and it is being discussed in various places, such as France, in the open agricultural machining and design communities.

10  I am talking about financial capital, because in the contemporary commons, the social capital is being transmitted and accumulated within the commons (use value vs exchange value distinction); that is not to say this could be improved, but survival and reproduction is the key issue here. 11  ‘Guerrilla Translation is a P2P translation collective and cooperative founded in Spain. Our group is a small


There is also a specific potential inside the commons-oriented ethical economy, such as the application of open book accounting and open supply chains that would allow a different value circulation, whereby the stigmergic12 mutual coordination that already works at a scale for immaterial cooperation and production would move to the coordination of physical production, creating post-market dynamics of allocation in the physical sphere. Replacing the market allocation through the price signal, and through central planning, this new system of material production would allow for massive mutual coordination instead, enabling a new form of ‘resource-based economics’. Finally, this whole system can be strengthened by creating commons-based venture funding, so as to create material commons, as originally proposed by Dmytri Kleiner and elaborated by Bauwens and Restakis.13 In this way, the machine park itself is taken out of the sphere of capital accumulation. In this proposed system, cooperatives needing capital for machinery would post a bond, and the other cooperatives in the system would fund the bond and buy the machine for a commons in which both funders and users would be members. The interest paid on these loans would create a fund that would gradually be able to pay an increasing income to their members, constituting a new kind of basic income. The new open cooperativism is substantially different from the older form. In the older form, internal economic democracy is accompanied by participation in market dynamics on behalf of the members, using capitalist competition, hence an unwillingness to share profits and benefits with outsiders. There is no creation of the commons. We need a different model in which the cooperatives produce commons, and are statutorily oriented towards the creation of the common good, with multi-stakeholders’ forms of governance which include workers, users-consumers, investors and the concerned communities. Today there is a paradox, open communities of peer producers are oriented towards the start-up model and are subsumed to the profit model, while the cooperatives remain closed, use Intellectual Property (IP), and do not create commons. In the new model of open cooperativism, a merger should take place between the open peer production of commons and the cooperative production of value. The new open cooperativism integrates externalities, practices economic democracy,

but international set of avid readers, content curators and social/environmental issue-focused people who love to translate and love to share. We are not volunteers, but rather are building our own innovative cooperative business model which “walks the talk” of much contemporary writing on the new economy and its power to change.’ Source: Guerrilla Translation, 12  ‘Stigmergy is a mechanism of indirect coordination between agents or actions. The principle is that the trace left in the environment by an action stimulates the performance of a next action, by the same or a different agent. In that way, subsequent actions tend to reinforce and build on each other, leading to the spontaneous emergence of coherent, apparently systematic activity.’ More information at: Wikipedia, 2014. Stigmergy. Available at: http:// 13  Bauwens, M., Kleiner, J. and Restakis, J., 2013. Manifesting A Material Commons – A Trialogue. Available at: Podcast: and Transcript: Focuses on Cooperative, Commons-Based Venture Funding.


produces commons for the common good, and socialises its knowledge. The circulation of the commons is combined with the process of cooperative accumulation, on behalf of the commons and its contributors. In the beginning, the immaterial commons field, following the logic of free contributions and universal use for everyone who needs it, would co-exist with a cooperative model for physical production based on reciprocity. But as the cooperative model becomes more and more hyper-productive and is able to create sustainable abundance in material goods, the two logics would merge.

Mutual coordination mechanisms in the new 'ethical' entrepreneurial coalitions: Cybersyn redux?14 Traditional economic debates are often between the options of state-initiated planning on one hand, and the allocation through market pricing signals on the other hand. But the social knowledge economy shows the increasingly likely path of a third method of allocation, that of transparent mutual coordination. The first attempt to create such a type of resource-based economy took place in the Soviet Union of the 1960s, when the construction of a proto-internet was initiated. It is well documented in Red Plenty,15 the book by Francis Spufford. The effort failed because of the opposition of the bureaucratic forces in the state apparatus. The second attempt at a resource-based economy based on democratic and mutual coordination took place in Allende's Chile in the early 1970s, under the advice and leadership of complexity thinker Stafford Beer. It was successfully used on a smaller scale to overcome a crippling strike of the transportation industry, where the strike was overcome with 25% of the fleet and by using telexes for coordination. Thus the project Cybersyn16 was born, a project to mutually and democratically coordinate Chilean industry. The project was unfortunately destroyed through the military coup, and the effective bombing of its headquarters. Nevertheless, under the impulse of the social knowledge communities, mutual coordination of complex activities is making a very strong appearance, even if it is limited, at present, to the production of 'immaterial' value, i.e. knowledge products. This emergence has implications for a transition to a new type of economic coordination that will co-exist with both state planning and traditional market pricing mechanisms. Indeed, the real and existing social knowledge economy of commons-oriented peer production of free software, open design and hardware, is known to function

14  Editors' note: Redux is a way of presenting something in a new way or bringing it back into circulation. 15  Spufford, F., 2012. Red Plenty. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press. 16  Cybersyn was a democratic planning / mutual coordination project for Chilean industry, undertaken by Stafford Beer for the government of Salvador Allende, you can find details here at Cybersyn


according to the principle of mutual coordination, or ‘stigmergy’. The open design communities that already exist construct and coordinate their construction of common pools of knowledge, code, and design, through mutual signalling systems because their infrastructures of cooperation are fully open and transparent. In the world of physical production, we can see an emergence of open supply chains and open book accounting on a much smaller scale such as the Curto Cafe Project in Rio de Janeiro.17 Nevertheless, there is a historical opportunity for an emergence of mutual coordination of physical production if the 'ethical entrepreneurial coalitions', which may emerge around the social knowledge economy, decide to share their accounting and logistical information streams within those coalitions. In this scenario, which is hypothetical at present — but could be an integral part of a mature p2p/commons oriented social knowledge economy — we would see the gradual emergence of an alternative third way for the coordinated allocation of resources for economic production.

The historical and present importance of mutualisation in times of increasing resource scarcity. Discussion: The issue of eco-system sustainability Faced with a grave ecological crisis, such as climate change and species extinction, but also in terms of impending resource crises, it is important to keep the historical perspective in mind of how humankind has faced such systemic crises in the past. One of the paradoxes of globalised capitalism is indeed its reliance on economies of scale, which are in contradiction with the needs of the balance of the eco-system. In short, economies of scale create competitiveness through the production of more units at a lower cost, which necessitates more energy and uses more resources to be competitive. What is needed in times of resource scarcity is the opposite approach: economies of scope, or in other words, ‘doing more with the same’. This is exactly how past civilisation crises were solved. Faced with the crisis of the Roman Empire, which was also a globalised system faced with a resource crisis, medieval Europe responded with a re-localisation of production through the feudal domains, with the mutualisation of livelihoods and production through the monastic orders, and a Europe-wide open design community, represented by the unified culture of the Catholic Church and the exchange and distribution of technical knowledge through the monastic orders. Very similar responses, in terms of localisation through land domains and monastic orders, can be seen in Japan and China.

17  For examples and development, see source:


Today, the response of the sectors of society that are most sensitive to the combined crises are very similar. There is a mutualisation of knowledge through the open source movements, and the mutualisation of physical goods and infrastructures through the 'sharing economy'. Thus the shift to the social knowledge economy is also the vital and appropriate response to the crises of the ecosystems.

Why innovation should be located in open design communities There are several reasons why it is crucial to move towards a system of open innovation that is located in common pools of knowledge, code and design, especially as it relates to the issue of sustainability. The first and general reason is that patenting technology results in unacceptable delays for invention and diffusion, as shown by the studies cited by George Dafermos.18 In times of climate change, extinction of species and other biospheric dangers, it would be highly damaging to keep the development and diffusion of such innovations under the control of private monopolies, if not to allow patented technologies to be shelved altogether for reasons like the protection of legacy systems or market share. The second reason is equally structural and systemic. When innovation is located in corporate Research and Development (R&D) departments, the design is always influenced by market and artificial scarcity considerations. In private R&D, planned obsolescence is not a bug but a feature, a generalised and systematised practice. By contrast, open design, open hardware, open technology communities lack any motivation for planned obsolescence and instead, by their very nature, apply design for inclusion, modularity, and sustainability. A quick check of the twenty-five or more contemporary open source car projects immediately shows that all of them have thought about sustainability as part of the design process. Thus, open design communities have a much greater potential to design inherently for re-use, recycling, upcycling, circular economy processes, biodegradable material, interoperability, modularity, and other aspects that have direct effects on sustainability. Each innovation in this area is instantly available for global humanity through open access to the shared open pools of knowledge. Corporations and market entities which produce and sell on the basis of such designs are naturally aligned to the sustainability which is inherent in the open design processes.

18  George Dafermos is an internet researcher and copyleft activist affiliated with the P2P Foundation. He holds a PhD in Technology Policy and Management from Delft University of Technology and is an internationally recognised expert on issues related to the digital commons, peer production, open/user innovation, online communities and new organisational structures enabled by the Internet. More information at: P2P Foundation, 2014. George Dafermos. Available at


Open design pools can be strategically allied to sustainable practices that increase this potential, for example by allying themselves with the 'sharing economy' practices of shared consumption. Open distributed manufacturing of open hardware comes with enormous cost savings; it is estimated that open hardware is generally produced at one eighth of the cost of proprietary hardware. For countries embarking on this road, this has important implications for the balance of payment, the neo-colonial dependency on the globalised neoliberal system. The cost-savings free substantial resources that can be invested in other areas of development to increase the diffusion of a particular good or service, and so on. Finally, in terms of production, the combination of open design with distributed machinery can or will have a tremendous effect on the geography of production, by allowing a re-localisation of production in micro-factories. Currently, studies show that the combination of open the transportation of goods is three-quarters design with distributed of the real ecological cost of production. Many machinery can or will have of these transportation costs can be eliminated a tremendous effect on the by the stimulation of local and domestic indusgeography of production tries that combine the generalisation of the micro-factory system with global engineering by open design communities, under the general motto: 'What's heavy is local, what's light is global'.

The role of 'idle-sourcing' and the sharing economy The emergence of the social knowledge economy, as a process of mutualisation of immaterial resources, is also accompanied by the emergence of a 'sharing economy', i.e. a process of mutualisation of material resources. This sharing economy is emerging partly as a crisis-driven response to the global economic crisis, and partly because current network technologies drastically diminish the coordination and transaction costs necessary to manage such mutualisation. In Rachel Botsman's Rise of Collaborative Consumption,19 one of the earlier book treatments on this emergence, the author distinguishes three major categories of sharing: •  Product Service Systems like Bikesharing and Carsharing, based on a ‘usage mindset’ whereby you pay for the benefit of a product – what it does for you – without needing to own the product outright

19  Botsman, R. and Rogers, R., 2010. What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, New York: Harper Business.


•  Redistribution Markets like Freecycle and eBay, used or pre-owned goods are redistributed from where they are not needed to somewhere or someone where they are •  Collaborative Lifestyles like Couchsurfing, and the Lending Club: sharing and exchange of resources and assets such as time, food, space, skills, and money The sharing economy is an important response to resource and energy scarcity challenges, and in particular to the enormous waste in material resources that is the result of a profit-driven consumptive economy. The sharing economy allows massive idle-sourcing that is the re-use of little-used material possessions. Mutualising certain products in new networks, like car-sharing for example, allows for substantial savings in the use of energy and material resources necessary to fulfil certain functions like transportation. The sharing economy is ideally supported and enabled by a social knowledge economy, which allows open information about idle resources to be shared across user communities. It is important however, to look at the ownership and governance issues underpinning this emergence. One part of the sharing economy is driven by privately owned platforms that monetise such idle resources; and another part consists of social and non-profit initiatives that aim for non-monetary sharing of such resources. The part of the sharing economy that is clearly driven by privately-owned, profit-driven platforms acting as intermediaries between users can clearly derail some of the advantages. For example, the use of dis-aggregated distributed labour, where isolated freelance workers are facing a demand side that is clearly empowered by the platform design, can exert a downward trend on wages. A social knowledge policy should ensure that ownership and governance forms do not derail the free sharing of knowledge amongst all users, and that private ownership of platforms does not endanger such possibilities. However, many of the activist forces in the sharing economy are working for socially progressive policies. This, for example, is the case for the eBook Guide: Policies for Shareable Cities, co-produced by Shareable magazine20 and the Sustainable Economies Law Center.21 Other policy productions, like for example the campaigns of Peers.org22 in the United States, are the product of an organisation that blurs the social contradictions between the users and the owners of the sharing infrastructures.

20  Shareable is an award-winning non-profit news, action and connection hub for the sharing transformation. Source: 21  ‘Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) cultivates a new legal landscape that supports community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment. We provide essential legal tools so communities everywhere can develop their own sustainable sources of food, housing, energy, jobs, and other vital aspects of a thriving community.’ Source: 22  Peers is a member-driven organization that supports the sharing economy movement. We believe that by sharing what we already have — like cars, homes, skills and time — everyone benefits in the process. The sharing economy is helping us pay the bills, work flexible hours, meet new people or spend more time with our families. We think it’s how the 21st century economy should work, so we’re coming together to grow, mainstream and protect the sharing economy. Source:


However, it remains a priority for the transition towards a social knowledge economy to systematically enable and empower the mutualisation of infrastructures that the emergent sharing economy represents, while matching it to ownership and governance forms that include the user communities.

A historical opportunity: The Convergence of Material/Technical P2P Infrastructures, Digital/Immaterial Commons, and Commons-Oriented Governance and Ownership Models Today the transition towards a social knowledge economy is favoured by a strong convergence of social and technological trends and 'affordances', i.e. the technological possibilities that can be embraced by emancipatory political and social forces. The first is of course the peer-to-peer logic of open technical infrastructures like the internet, which allow for permission-less self-organisation and value creation by productive communities that can operate both on a local and global scale. The internet is, in effect, not just a communication medium, but more properly a production medium. The second is the 'distribution' of the means of production through three dimensional (3D) printing and other trends in the miniaturisation of machinery. This allows much lower entry barriers for the self-organisation of a civic and cooperative economy. This is the 'Internet of Manufacturing'. The so-called Sharing Economy23 allows for the mutualisation of critical infrastructures and the 'idle-sourcing' of isolated and scattered resources. The ‘Internet of Things’ allows for a more finegrained control and the autonomy and interconnection of objects. The third is the distribution of financial capital through crowdfunding, social lending and other possibilities, which allow a more fine-grained allocation of investments by citizens themselves. This is the ‘Internet of Ethical Financial Capital’. The fourth is the development of renewable distributed energy, which allows for an ‘Internet of Energy’, and energetic autonomy at more local levels, such as villages, neighbourhoods and even households. Free software, open knowledge, and open design show the possibilities for increasing the networking and mutualisation of immaterial resources. The three other forms of distribution point to a potential for the networking and mutualisation of physical resources. In other words, we have a great potential to engineer a convergence of both the immaterial and material commons. Thus, we can envisage the social knowledge economy as enabling a vast series of interconnected knowledge commons for every field of human activity which is enabled both by material conditions (the internet of manufacturing and energy) and immaterial conditions (metrics, legal frameworks, and so on).

23  I refer to it as ‘so-called’ because most of it is not sharing, but just renting and such, and because the sharing platforms are subjected to extractive governance and property modalities.


However, as we have shown in our introduction about the regimes of value, such commons can still be the subject of an 'extractivism of knowledge' which benefits privileged elite players. And as we have shown in our distinctions regarding technology regimes, the p2p technical affordances can be embedded in value-sensitive design that privileges certain players, like the owners of the platforms. The great danger is therefore that what we dis-intermediate and decentralise with one hand can be re-intermediated by new dominant players through the other hand. The promise of the social knowledge economy will therefore not be realised without profound changes in the regimes of property and governance. This is why we must insist that the social knowledge economy, i.e. commonsoriented peer production by autonomous productive communities, goes hand in hand with both peer property and peer governance. Today, social media like Facebook, search engines like Google, are in the hands of a new type of 'netarchical' oligopolies. Many enabling platforms, such as those for crowdfunding and social lending, are merely forms of distributed capitalism, functioning like reverse market mechanisms (such as the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform24) that do not create and sustain commons. Hence, the distribution of the means of knowledge creation and diffusion, of production machinery and financial capital, of distributed energy and of the vital land resources, needs to be matched by distributed and common ownership and common land. Without the latter, distributed infrastructures and practices are subject to extractive accumulation of capital and rent extraction,25 to the detriment of the autonomy of the participating individuals and communities. While the immaterial commons of non-rival and shareable goods can be protected by open licenses, the material production resulting from them should take place through ethical entities that are the property of the value producers themselves. Today there is an emergence of a wide range of dynamic governance and property regimes that can guarantee distribution and democratisation of decision-making power. Governance innovations such as the Viable Systems Model,26 sociocracy and holocracy, have been developed to allow for democratic decision-making in productive communities; Dynamic property regimes as the FairShares Model of Enterprise, Solidarity Coops, Community Land Trusts, and many others, have been developed to ‘common-ise’ and distribute property. The legal and regulatory frameworks of the social knowledge economy should facilitate the development and choice of such modalities. The key is to enable a pluralistic Commonwealth richness of choices that have, as key requirements, both productive democracy and the integration of environmental and social externalities.

24  Source: 25  See the discussion by Rachel O’Dwyer: More information at: P2P, 2014. Becoming Rent of Profit. Available at: 26  ‘The viable system model (VSM) is a model of the organisational structure of any viable or autonomous system. A viable system is any system organised in such a way as to meet the demands of surviving in the changing environment. One of the prime features of systems that survive is that they are adaptable.’ More information at: Wikipedia, 2014. Viable system model. Available at


As we have seen above in the introduction, distinct socio-technical regimes are in tension to deliver genuine common pool resources and ideas of a sharing economy. P2p infrastructures and practices can be embedded in netarchical models (hierarchical control, ownership and governance of the enabled p2p social logic) and concepts of distributed capitalism (monetising of idle and shareable resources), but these are also delivered through local community and global commons-oriented property and governance regimes. How do we proceed to resolve this tension? My recommendation is for the creation of three institutions (or three in one) that can insure democratic ownership and governance within the sphere of the immaterial and material commons: The Institute for the Commons This generic Institute creates the general conditions and civic infrastructures that are necessary for the commons and autonomous social production to exist. An example would be to create an active literacy for commons-oriented peer production, for example to create a general awareness of licensing issues, funding mechanisms, the mutualisation of the workplace and productive resources. The Institute for Pluralistic Ownership This institute, in cooperation with the Institute for the Commons presented above, assists individuals and communities and actors of the social knowledge economy to know the ownership alternatives that are available, facilitates access to that knowledge, to legal enablement, and so on. It can be modelled on successful civic initiatives like the Sustainable Economics Law Center27 in San Francisco, under the leadership of Janelle Orsi; and of the ShareLex28 movement in Europe. The Institute for Pluralistic Governance This institute, in cooperation with the Institute for the Commons presented above, assists individuals, communities and actors of the social knowledge economy to know the governance alternatives that are available, facilitates access to that knowledge, to legal enablement, and so on. It helps find training in the human capabilities that favour multi-stakeholder, democratic, open and transparent forms of governance. In the context of a to be constructed Partner-State model, which creates the civic infrastructures necessary to enable and empower autonomous social production, such a set of institutions would go a long way in creating the conditions for a p2pbased, commons-oriented, phase transition. A successful approach would set out to simultaneously change civil society, the market, and the state function. Such a society would internalise negative social and environmental costs, create network-based positive externalities, and would be based on an inclusive democracy of production.

27  Editors' note: Source: Sustainable Economies Law Center, 28  Editors' note: Source: ShareLex,


Screenshot from the website of Tactical Technology Collective.

Maya Indira Ganesh started at Tactical Tech in 2009 as a consultant determining how documentation of violations against sex workers in India and Cambodia could be used in advocacy. This was a natural progression from her work as a researcher, activist and writer with women’s rights organisations in India and internationally. Now she is the Director of Applied Research, a new team that reflects Tactical Tech’s focus on creative and ‘field-building’ research. She has Masters degrees from Delhi University, India, and the University of Sussex, UK. Gabi Sobliye worked, prior to joining the team of Tactical Tech, at Transparency International, contributing to data projects such as the Global Corruption Barometer, and for The Guardian newspaper in London. Gabi holds a Masters in Human Rights from University College London. At Tactical Tech she works on visual persuasion areas central to our book Visualising Information for Advocacy. Interviewed by ALH.



Tactical Technology Collective with Maya Indira Ganesh and Gabi Sobliye

Tactical Technology Collective (Tactical Tech) is an organisation, which has its focus on the use of information in activism. With data visualisation tools and technology Tactical Tech is empowering activists to use information powerfully to communicate evidence to effect changes in social, environmental and political matters. Besides that they have a strong emphasis on providing information in digital security and privacy risks.1 Maya, could you tell us a few words about yourself and Tactical Technology Collective, its history, when it was founded, by whom and your involvement with them and other projects? MIG: Tactical Tech started in 2003 as an organisation that was working with NonGovernmental Organisations (NGOs) and groups enabling them to use free and open source software in their advocacy work. In fact, one way to chart the development of the organisation is through a history of the various visual, digital and print products we have created. The projects reflect the areas and type of issues we focus on. We are not a static organisation, we change a lot, because what we work with is information and technology areas that are constantly evolving and developing. Because we are an organisation that seeks out practical responses to the problems we see around us, we focus on making things that could offer our audiences agency in a process of change. What are some example projects, activities, and processes of Tactical Tech, what is their aim? MIG: We did for example NGO in a box2 in 2006-2007. It’s a set of 3 CDs and

1  Tactical Technology Collective, 2  NGO in-a-box is a collection of tools for the day-to-day running of small to medium-size NGOs. Produced by Tactical Tech in association with WomensNet, this toolkit aims to make it easier to set up base, find the right software and learn how to use it.


it introduces different ways of using technology in NGO work, publishing and infrastructure. Then we had some more in-a-box series, there was Message and Mobiles in a box,3 done around 2008. These are basically tools for creating and amplifying your message, in the digital world. Message in a Box was online and available offline, it visually includes everything which was relevant in 2008 from audio to print to introduce it on a global level to NGOs and activism groups. This is always a focus for us to translate materials globally, to open up the processes, share them and say Hi, make your own version of it, or Can you build on this? We made this website which contains the updated content of: Message and Mobile in a box in a new format, now named: Info Activism How to Guide.4 We built up a women’s rights version5 of this how-to website, as a campaigning info-activism toolkit. For this, we had a partnership with an NGO in India. So we customised it to the context of their NGO, working in conflict regions of south-east Asia, east Africa and the Arab region. The website is quite similar, but it is better organised. That’s the evolution of the in-a-box toolkits. The focus was on how you use digital campaign. What is right for your processes? What are the strategies and tools to organise your campaign? Workshops often help with the implementation, but how can they use it by themselves? This was what I was going to ask you, how does your ‘target’ group/audience implement the information and tools? MIG: For example, with the women’s rights page, we suggest ways in which they can use the tools, resources online and offline. It has been translated into four other languages — Kiswahili, Hindi, Bengali and Arabic. The reason why I mentioned that is because we like to look at things, and see how they can be reinvented and improved. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We have some groups who look at older Sustainability is about material and want to build something new from it, sharing, saying you can which was how the women's rights toolkits I just use it, repurpose it, mentioned happened. translate it, and remix it Now, we may have moved on already but looking at legacy and sustainability is an issue for an organisation that has been around for ten years. Sustainability is about sharing, saying you can use it, repurpose it, translate it, and remix it.

3  Mobiles in-a-box from the Tactical Technology Collective is a collection of tools, tactics, how-to guides and case studies designed to help advocacy and activist organisations use mobile technology in their work. Mobiles in-a-box is designed to inspire you, to present possibilities for the use of mobile telephony in your work and to introduce you to some tools which may help you. 4  A how-to guide to strategies and tools for digital campaigning. More info here: 5


Now I move on to talk about another very big project we did in 2009, 10 tactics. 10 tactics6 is based on an event: the Info-activism7 campin 2009, we did another one last year in June. One output was a film: 10 tactics for turning information into action.8 It’s an educational documentary on activists around the world, showcasing how they use digital tools and activism to leverage their advocacy. Along with the film came this very beautiful pack, the 10 tactics pack, with 10 cards and a DVD. Basically, it is repurposing the ideas of Message in a box. It has 10 basics and 10 tactics card. So we also had people doing screenings around the world for a year and a half. That’s how we build and sustain contacts and networks. It got translated into more than eighteen languages, we used something called dotsub9 to allow people to translate/subtitle in many languages, it’s a free open source tool. That’s the other thing that is really important to us, that things are open source, freely available, not proprietary, and accessible in different languages. We had a network of volunteers translating it into many different languages. Through that process, it became something of their own. You see, it needs a lot of infrastructure to make things happen. Our projects all get developed into different areas and we try to constantly keep up-to-date with our online materials, so there is another website besides the main information activism site, called unstitched.10 Unstitched contains all of the old case studies that were in 10 tactics with a lot of new ones. And we even have an Arabic version that takes the 10 tactics cards and puts them into a different format. For the Arabic version, we also had a small grant to translate it. However, the grant unfortunately — or fortunately — came when the revolution started in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, so this really made us think: 'What are we trying to do here? Do we want to tell them what to do, because they were in the middle of a revolution and organising their own stuff. So what we made was a suite of new, locally contextualised self-learning materials on digital activism in Arabic, campaigning and working with data and evidence in advocacy together with different partners. We went to well-known NGOs in the Arab area to do some workshops with them, let them choose and work with our toolkits, ask for feedback and allow them to do upgrades. One of our most popular product also made in 2009, is Security in-a-box.11 This is all the other work that we do around digital security and privacy, and training people to be able to be safer and smarter in their use in technology. Security in-a-Box

6 7 8  If you check you will see the original 10 tactics project. 9  Dotsub is a browser based, one-stop, self-contained system for creating and viewing subtitles for videos in multiple languages across all platforms, including web-based, mobile devices, and transcription and video editing systems. It’s easy to use, nothing to buy or download, and it’s fun. More info: 10 11  Security in-a-box is a collaborative effort of the Tactical Technology Collective and Front Line. It was created to meet the digital security and privacy needs of advocates and human rights defenders. Security in-a-box includes a Howto Booklet, which addresses a number of important digital security issues. Further info:


now gets nearly two million views a year. All the positive things you can do with digital advocacy also always bring certain risks. SecuAll the positive things rity in-a-box is an online and offline resource available you can do with digital in fourteen languages. We also customise it and create advocacy also always contextual versions for different organisations, such (LGBT) bring certain risks as for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities in the Arab region,12 women’s human rights defenders, environmental activists and other marginalised communities who are at risk and under certain threat online. So you encourage organisations to make their own versions and connect it with you, and let the material grow beyond your resources? MIG: Yes absolutely, we encourage that. So besides that, what was happening at that time was that we grew stronger into the area of visualisation, how it works in advocacy and activism. We started looking at visualisation tools for large amounts of information as a way to get through, what we call, the ‘60-page-syndrome’. NGOs have the tendency to write and publish vast reports, which then nobody reads. But for advocacy, you need to get the message out in a clear and easily digestible way to your audiences who will most likely not read such long reports. So, we wanted to enable them to present that information in a nicer way. For those issues, it became very popular to use visualisation tools. Therefore, we continued sharing and demystifying digital tools for advocacy, and collected them on the website Drawing by Numbers.13 And then we started the book Visualising Information for Advocacy Guide.14 The book started as data and design notes,15 which people are still using for practicing and training. Though most of the content is now subsumed within the book, the online chapters are still being used by people for training workshops. You sometimes never know how things are used by your audience. This was also one question I had, do you think, as you have a great mix of media, that you reach a broader audience and are successful in engaging people with your tools and products? MIG: Yes, this works in different ways, and we are not always sure how it works in different places for different kinds of products we create. So in some places, people only want to read online or have iPad versions, as we saw for the Visualising Advo-

12 13 14  Visualising Information for Advocacy is a book about how advocates and activists use visual elements in their campaigns. This 170 page guide features over 60 case studies from around the world to provide an introduction to understanding visual information and a framework for using images for influence. More info: 15


Visualising Information for Advocacy Guide. Š Tactical Tech.

cacy book. and they want a print copy. Actually, a lot of people like the print copy because it is a book about visuals. In some cases, I think people just want to get free stuff. If we set up a stall at a conference or workshop and give out our materials, people just pick them up because they look pretty and because they're free. That is not to be cynical, it's more to say that we don't always know how multi-media engagement and outreach works. In fact, this is something we are going to be working on expressly now, to find out more about what works and what doesn't. How much feedback and knowledge do you have about the implementation of your tools? MIG: Part of our monitoring and evaluation is also asking people and organisations how they use the material, and this feeds into how we rework it. For example when we are working with organisations in workshops, we gather feedback or give them advice on how to use our material, and we let them give us feedback later on what could be changed and done differently. Feedback is very critical, but we try to get it while we are working with people. Afterwards it’s really hard to get. How many people actually work for Tactical Tech? MIG: Now we are about thirty people. But we have only been that many for the last few years. The numbers have been steadily increasing...! How are you sustained financially? MIG: We have project, program and organisational funding, and there is a list of our


main funders in the 'about us' section of the website.16 We get Foundation funding and mostly funding from European governments. We have a few rules, for example we don’t take any money from companies or corporations. We credit them on the materials most of the time, except when it could be potentially risky to do so. How do you get your audience involved, what is the best way for you to engage them with your tools? Do you have a main audience you target at? If so, what do you think is your impact on the target group? Do you think that with the actions and projects you mentioned you are able to empower and activate people to more actions and advocacy work? GS: One thing is the network itself, created by sharing all the materials online, another thing is doing a lot of offline events and workshops. With Security ina-box (SiaB), for example, we do security trainings on the ground with different organisations. SiaB is the main resource that supports trainees after the event, as a sort of reference guide. Or we do very big events, such as the info-activism camp17 mentioned before. So this is very important for as us as we bring together our networks and new people working in that field, which is very interesting for us, also to find new work. Our audience is very broad, consisting of activists, political activists, advocates and journalists around the world, and it’s different for different projects. Sometimes they invite us to do a workshop for example. How important do you see the role of open design in your work, and have you dealt with reluctant designers when they hear you will offer these open source tools? GS: When the concept of Tactical Technology Collective was first established eleven years ago a founding principle was for the organisation to use and promote open source tools and to release all of our material under a Creative Commons license.18 This means that there were a lot of adaptations, customisations and translations of our work. For example the project 10 tactics, is a good way to see how our initial concept was transformed into something different: 10 tactics is a short film and a series of cards for creative campaigning that was translated into twenty-three languages. We managed the translations ourselves with volunteers and reviewers. 10 tactics was then adapted into the website.19 We then worked with a women’s rights organisation in India, CREA,20 to adapt the website for women’s rights groups in three regions together with seven partners — ranging from Kenya to Sudan. We produced a women’s rights campaigning toolkit,21 which

16  17  18  19  20  21


was based on the feedback from these organisations. The Guide has been translated into four languages and has been printed and distributed by these partner organisations, as the communities are often remote and have no access to the internet. Or, for example, our Visualising Information for Advocacy book is now being translated into Georgian by volunteers at the Georgian organisation Jump Start Georgia,22 which is great for us as we rarely have the funding for all the translations, but it’s very important for outreach. Regarding the designers and programmers we work with, we usually have it written into our contracts with them that the code will be open source and the designs will be published under a Creative Commons licence. There is a group of programmers in Berlin whom we work with a lot. They only do work for social issues, they are called Sinnwerkstatt.23 Another project that highlights our translation and customisation work was when we met up with five organisations in Beirut to brainstorm ways in which our range of info-activism resources could be adapted for use by activists in the Arab region. Our partners on this project were Dawlaty,24 SMEX,25 and AltCity26 all based in Lebanon, 7iber27 in Jordan and the Development House28 in Yemen. We wanted to go beyond straight-up translations because we felt that these partners had a lot to contribute in terms of their own ideas and experiences, so we suggested that they either translate, customise or 'remix' our materials in a way that they thought would be useful to their communities and their own interests. So this was a workshop in a different location? GS: Yes, this was a workshop in Beirut. Our partners chose four resources we offered. They customised our resources in the way it felt useful to them and translated it into different languages. One such customisation was by a Syrian organisation, customising 10 tactics on the subject of the Syrian revolution. They highlighted 51 case studies and tactics in the Syrian revolution. This refers also to the technical side, to copy and use it for their issues? GS: Yes, exactly. This also relates to where we are aiming to go in the future. What we are trying to become much better at is researching and writing on the go. Usually, we have our in-house teams working on things. So once we finish, we release it. But sometimes that means we are silent for quite some time and people are less aware of what we are working on. So we are trying to do this live research more actively and tell people what we are working with at the moment, where we are struggling and challenges we have overcome.

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So the whole process shall become more transparent, so that people can pick up information in the middle and start working with it already? GS: Yes, exactly. As I mentioned we are trying to work on being more open about the processes and challenges we face in order to add to the conversation and provide resources for others working in this area. For example, in the coming months we will feature two blog posts on the Visualising Advocacy29 website that detail the process of making data visualisations from start to finish. Often viewers only see the slick result at the end and the creation of it is often mysterious and inaccessible. Our aim is to open up about our process and ask other visualisation artists to also contribute to the blog, thus adding much needed information on the realities of creating these projects. What do you think are the most powerful tools, methods and platforms to reach your audience through the ‘noise’ of daily life? How do you get people engaged? MIG: We spend a long time trying to define audiences. If we are working with a group, then we would work together to identify their audience, i.e. who are the people that would help them achieve the change they are trying to achieve and how to get people to care. Meaning that people care for things that are close to them, such as their family, loved ones and their community, and we are trying to extend this care to other people. We ask questions about what would make them widen their care. For this, we use the line of influence30 which identifies five positions. First, you have ‘active allies’ on one side, willing to get active for your cause, the next ones are ‘allies’ — less likely to do an action but still on your side. Then you have ‘neutral’, an audience you’d attempt to convince and pull on your side, and then the ‘opponents’ and ‘active opponents’, which you can only change by force, such as a change of law. We work with organisations on identifying who their audience is and how to reach them, and then on creating a detailed profile of their target audience. Regarding the ‘noise’ question, we are aware that it’s hard to cut through, but it depends on the audience, the information, and how it is presented. What I think is powerful is something unusual and creative, which does not always require money and capacity. For example, I, along with Rahul Bhargava from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is also on the board of Tactical Tech, recently held a workshop at the Open Knowledge Festival here in Berlin on low-tech data visualisation. The idea being that most of the world is offline, so if you want to reach communities that are offline or illiterate or if you have limited resources such as a small budget or low tech capacities, then an answer could be low-tech data visualisations in order to communicate information. One way is by exploring creative but easy-to-make graphs and charts, and thinking of them in an unusual way. I think creativity is key, though that’s a hard thing to say to people since they often get scared of that term.

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Regarding social media, it’s a great tool as well, but you have to really look into your area of reach, as some countries use Twitter and others Facebook, it really depends. How do you see your work or similar projects repositioning the consciousness and actions of design, designers and designing? GS: After launching the book, we have had some interest from design schools, universities and lecturers, who are interested on behalf of their students in this area of ‘designing for good.’ Our book is one of few written in the area of information design and activism. A portion of our work is conducting workshops and training for organisations and activists, most of whom are not designers. So we are interested in talking to designers about advocacy and the way they think about messaging and the new ways of designing for advocacy purposes, but it’s difficult to get funding for that. What we would hope for, of course, is to motivate future students to go and work in that area. As we are a multidisciplinary organisation that brings together design, technology and activism I see our work contributing to how young designers could work in the future, and from what I have seen there seems to be a lot of interest in this. The book Agents of Alternatives strongly deals with the topic of agency and agents. What is your definition and position towards these terms, what does it mean to you? MIG: How I would frame it is the work we have done with technology. It’s about enabling people who are already agents, who see themselves already as 'agents of change' and just give them greater fluency with technology. So it’s about how to support other people who are already acTechnology and information tive and influential where they are (here, are the lifeblood of activism I mean specifically political activists, advocacy groups etc.), how to make them more today, so it is about enhancing efficient in their work, conscious, strategic the agency of people and smart with technology. Technology and information are kind of the lifeblood of activism today, so it is about enhancing the agency of people. And through things like translations or creative commons licensing, these things allow agency in terms of ownership as well. We don’t want to be only an international organisation that produces things for others to consume, but we want to give people a kind of agency through ownership in customising, remixing, learning and translation. That’s how we foster their agency, through ownership. I also hope that by doing the hands-on events, everyone has something to teach and learn, experience skill-share lessons etc. You come not only as a participant, but also as a facilitator. I would say that we do not only foster agency in our philosophy, but also in our practice. For us, giving agency to people is very fundamental. This is how the network expands and grows, too. Thank you Maya and Gabi, a very inspiring conversation!


Cecilia Palmer at a joint workshop of Fashion Reloaded & Make{able}, WärkFest 2013 © Harri Homi.

Cecilia Palmer is a Berlin-based designer and activist who’s work links ethics, aesthetics with fashion design and web-coding. She is the founder of the green, open source fashion label Pamoyo and the upycyling and redesign event Fashion Reloaded. Both initiatives aim to engage consumer and producers with open source and upcycling ideas. Cecilia has a mixed background within social and environmental projects as well as clothes making and coding. This multi-faceted experience allows her to combine tangible handicrafts work with the intangible world of coding, and thus, interconnect these and find links and methods to benefit each other. Interviewed by ALH.



Open Fashion & Code with Cecilia Palmer

Hello Cecilia, can you tell us about your personal background and your recent projects related to the open design movement, Fashion & Code, workshops, etc.? Yes, I have a mixed background both in fashion and software coding and as well as working in social and environmental projects which have been coming and going in different proportions. For the last six years I have been running a label called Pamoyo,1 in the fashion area of my work, which functions according to open source principles as much as possible. I was trying to integrate different elements of a more sustainable fashion production such as upcycling, organic materials, local production and trying out other models than the conventional ones. Next to that, I do a lot of workshops and participatory events, integrating upcycling and Open Design by just letting people come together and finding new ways of creating what they wear, and finding paths away from the consumerism, through do-it-yourself and do-it-together (DIY/DIT) workshops, learning and exchanging skills, trying different ways of upcycling and making together. But on the periphery of these things I have always worked with the internet, building websites mostly. These two things have been feeding into each other a lot. That’s why I started thinking about open source also related to fashion design. So I started releasing patterns under open source licenses. Fashion & Code, how do they work together or how you think they benefit each other? How did you come up with this idea of combining/linking them? They benefit each other in a way that Fashion is a lot about tangible handicraft, whereas a code is something intangible. So they complement each other. I was always making stuff, for as long as I can remember, and mostly I taught myself. I was making stuff for myself, friends and then I started selling things, so I kind of grew into this. A few years back, when I was working for this organisation called Loesje2 I was doing a lot of work on the computer, and I was missing working with my hands. I was researching for examples of merchandising items in 2006, but

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there were so few examples. American Apparel were selling themselves as a social company, but there was a general awareness that things weren’t so good, and it was still really hard to get hold of sustainable, eco and ethical ‘ok’ T-shirts, at a reasonable price. Somewhere there I started thinking why not doing something myself about this, so I left this work and started my own label full-time.


So basically you discovered yourself the need for something that was not available on the market, and you decided to do something about this? Exactly, I was suffering — I needed something that wasn’t needed something there. That’s what I think made many people start in this that wasn’t there pioneering area. For example, in the sustainable fashion business, if there aren’t any factories producing local and fair, we have to build one.

Related to your experience, how important do you see experimentation or the willingness to experiment in the design process or for a project? Basically leaving the path which what you have been taught, or what is currently the ‘norm’, to follow your own idea/vision? Yes, I think that is very important, that’s also why I think it is important to work across disciplines, because as you say if you are taught that things are to be done a certain way, it can be quite difficult to change them. As Albert Einstein observed, the world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation. I think that is very correct, it is it is easier for people hard to take distance from something you are embedded in, who come from mixed to do it really differently. That’s what I see in sustainable backgrounds to imagine fashion, there is a lot happening, but on the other hand things outside the box I see a lot that is just the same thing in green, and in the end it is just based on the same consumer patterns. Maybe buy a little less for more money, but it’s not changing the core of the problem. For example cotton isn’t a sustainable material, it takes a lot of resources to grow it. If it’s organic it’s a little better but it’s still not a sustainable material. Just removing pesticides doesn’t change the problem. And then I think it is easier for people who come from mixed backgrounds, to imagine things outside the box. For example from my network, half of the people working with fashion have studied and the other half is self-taught. This brings me to the next question: Do you think, that the problems facing fashion design(ers) in their future is addressed appropriately in design education, or are they caught in the same thinking and making patterns? What I noticed from people coming out of design school, studying fashion, is that they are very much afraid of doing anything else and breaking out from what they have been taught. I can understand, because in this industry it is very hard to start your own business, therefore many people who do start a business and do things differently have not studied fashion, and therefore don’t know how hard it will be.


So in a sense it is good that they do. And young fashion designers can work and learn from designers who have already established their business and then find their own way. But if you go and work for a bigger company as a designer, you won’t be able to change anything. There are only a few people who dare to think very revolutionary, who will go and do it their way. This requires real braveness and a radical way of doing things. Yes, and I cannot say this for all the design education, but quite a few institutions teach in a didactic way, telling their students: “That’s the way we do it, and you should not do it in any other way”. You have worked for a while in the area of Open Fashion Design, how do you see this growing in the future? Can you tell me something about your experience regarding the benefits and the feedback you gained opening up your designs? For example, at Pamoyo you had downloadable patterns, whereas fashion designers seem to be scared to give out their source code and secrets to everyone. Maybe you can name some benefits for designers in general? First of all, it is an irrational fear. I mean designers get copied all the time from bigger companies, they don’t even need their patterns to do this. That is really annoying, but they will do it anyway. Therefore I don’t understand what there is to be feared if we let customers/wearers experiment with our designs. Ok, maybe things don’t come out exactly as you (the designer) planned, but the person who will take this pattern and do something with it, will create a much more personal relationship with it. I have actually never heard of other fashion designers taking the patterns, there are mostly customers making things for themselves, at least from the positive feedback I have received. They give you feedback on things, how to improve it, and you also get to know people in a different way (e.g. via email). That is very interesting, because when you design and produce things and send them to a shop to sell, and then they hang there, you the pattern is only an idea, have no idea who will wear them. You let them go and it creates a distance. When opening the designs you do a concept, it only becomes not offer the ready-made items, thereby you can get a product when someone much closer to the wearer if they ask you for advice actually makes it or give you feedback. Because the pattern is only an idea, a concept, it only becomes a product when someone actually makes it, so it’s a collaborative process. People also took me very seriously on the promise that I would put my whole collection online, which unfortunately I was not able to do, as during the process I realised that it is so much work. The designer-maker-wearer dynamic was very interesting. So people are very eager to get this opportunity, but do you think they would also be willing to invest in something like this? Yes, you could say it is a different shopping experience. I know people already do








[1, 3, 5] Fashion Reloaded Event © Alex Malecki. [2, 4] Pamoyo © Alex Malecki & Uta Neumann.

this, and it’s growing a lot. But the moment you sell things, you need to create it as a product. In my case, I was still mostly focusing on the actual garment design. I was uploading patterns I could work with, not specifically made for downloading or DIY. I think it is difficult to do both, if you are only a one-person company because the patterns and DIY instructions are very time consuming as well. What do you think of the development in this area globally? Do you know similar approaches happening elsewhere? Yes, it’s great, there are more and more things happening. For example, there are different business ideas emerging around patterns and non-finished products. I think it is moving away from searching for our happiness in material goods towards experiences. Experiences already seem to gain a People also want to buy higher status than owning things. This goes hand objects which have a story, in hand with making your own things. People also slowly moving away from want to buy objects which have a story, slowly mass-produced goods moving away from mass-produced goods. I’m curious as to where it will go and to what scale. I think it’s very important that people dare to try new things and different business models. In terms of business model, they just need to be aware that it’s not going to be the thing that makes you rich, but it is so important that they do it. And they might not get rich but they can get happier. It is driven by people who have passion and it needs someone to start, so more people will follow and it can become mainstream. I think that open design, and products, which are unfinished are now about to become this kind of trend. Where do you locate yourself in the fashion system? I see my role mainly as a provocateur. To poke around and question the things and places that have always been done the same way. To break rules, do things you are not allowed to do. How do you see your work or similar projects repositioning the consciousness and actions of design, designers and designing? Wow that’s so difficult, it’s so hard to describe a position when you are right in it. I think, at the moment, people who try to change things feel that they have to. It’s as if they don’t have a choice. The book Agents of Alternatives strongly deals with the topic of agency and agents. What is your definition and position towards these terms, what does it mean to you? I think it is to dare to put yourself out there. Be a voice for things that don’t have a voice yet. Filling in the gap where you see there is a gap, and you see something needs to happen, then push these developments.


Do you think that with the actions and projects you mentioned you are able to empower people for a transition towards more alternative and sustainable behaviour? I hope so. I don’t know if what I do empowers people, but I hope to open a little bit the door to a planet elsewhere where we don’t only go shopping. But you got very positive feedback from the people you worked with in workshops? It’s a positive exchange, I also get feedback from people who do things at home, or want to start designing their clothes… But, I don’t know if it really happens. However, the joint making process creates a momentum of very positive impact, and I hope that impact is sustained to change their consumption behaviour, because that’s why I am doing it. Do you think that with design we can create positive disruptions in society, which are able to result in a sustained change in the system? Like shaking people up. Yeah, definitively, that’s what design can do. Design can question our habits, question what we do, how Design can question our we consume, how we interact. It’s definitively very habits, question what powerful. You can change the form of things. Design we do, how we consume, has been pretty superficial in a way, but it is good for how we interact questioning things, and changing the impressions around them. So, it is very powerful. I don’t believe that design can change the world, it’s not that strong, for this you need also government and regulations, a different system, but design is a very good place to start, to provoke and to question. I have one more question related to design(ers): Do you feel it is more difficult to involve designers or non-designers to join this more provocative projects which aim on changing, for example, consumption patterns? Yes and no. I think there are an increasing number of designers and non-designers who don’t think things are going well, who understand things are not sustainable the way they are. You also have people who are conservative everywhere, inside and outside of Fashion. It is only possible to give a general answer, and by generalising you are always less truthful. One last question: What are your plans for the near or more distant future? I will continue to create fashion and clothing to survive, because I need this handicraft experience, but also web design which is very nurturing to me. I will also be working with creative activism projects. In the longer term I want to look deeper into the crafts and artisan knowledge. I think there we can find answers to many questions as they have survived for so long. They embody diversity, sustainability and challenge the global versus local. Thank you very much Cecilia, this was very inspiring.


Screenshot from the website of Open Green Map.

Open Green Map is a social mapping platform that shares information about sustainability in the community using lively, globally recognised icons to chart and help people connect with nature, culture, green living and social justice resources. Wendy E. Brawer started her design career when planned obsolescence was still considered design excellence. Realising that this mindset was driving us toward extinction, she developed Green Map System, a capacity-building product service system that’s an effective public relation (PR) service for the hometown environment. Wendy has been appointed Designer in Residence at Smithsonian CooperHewitt National Design Museum, an Utne Visionary and a Woman of Earth, as seen at her website Samantha Riccio is currently finishing her degree in Environmental Science and Policy at Marist College, Ploughkeepsie, New York state. She hopes to find a career which suits her drive to make the world a more sustainable place.

Case Study

Open Green Map by Wendy E. Brawer with Samantha Riccio

Purpose/ aim of the project: Think Global, Map Local! Locally-made in 40 countries, each Open Green Map is open to group development, public contextualisation and site suggestions. Flexibly - Open Green Maps can be embedded, exported, and explored on mobile devices. Names of people involved: Project Management; Wendy Brawer and Carlos A. Rubio Martinez. Technology; Thomas Turnbull, Lead; ongoing development Openflows; and Ciprian Samoila, Miikka Lammela, Gottfried Haider, Bogdan Szabo, Walter Perry and Hanne Paine. Design Team; Akiko Rokube, Andrew Sass, Risha Ishikawa, Taylor Baybutt and Yoko Ishibashi. Key stakeholders: Communities and individuals worldwide. Made by cities, schools, groups and companies, the Green Mapmakers are usually people in the know about sustainability and the local environment, while the map users are often new to this way of understanding a place and its potential. Target audience: The interactive mapping platform, Open Green Map, is an optional resource for registered Green Mapmakers worldwide. They define the local audience, such as residents or visitors, youth or adults, for each Green Map, along with its area and theme. However, these maps, with their universal icons, are used everywhere! Geographic Location: Built in New York City for Global & Local Mapmakers. Supported by: The initial budget for Open Green Map was US $200000, of which approximately fifty percent more was donated by volunteers, or delivered at rockbottom non-profit rates by web developers and designers. Green Mapmakers provided services such as translation and testing, etc. Start date/Finish date: Summer 2007 / launched 5th June 2009 – with on-going development of new features. Website or other online resource:


BEGINNING What triggered the project? When the global Green Map movement got rolling in 1995, we knew a mapping platform would be a boon to local Green Map projects. However, being humancentric rather than tech-centred, this project had to wait while we developed our network, community engagement and capacity building resources. While scores of locally designed printed Green Maps rolled off the presses, a few developed early online and Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping tools. The results, however, were often less than desired in terms of accessibility and expressiveness. We decided to wait for the public to become familiar with online maps, mapmaker demand to grow, and for our staff, funding and focus to evolve. Once development got underway in 2007, we selected the Google Map Application Programming Interface (API) and Drupal1 open source content management for the Open Green Map platform – both are free resources that we paired with the Green Map Icons and local knowledge to fulfil this need. Most important was including features that widen participation. What was your motivation? We were frustrated by the number of Green Mapmakers who had difficulty raising money, designing, publishing and distributing their print editions even with a style guide, no-cost publishing options and basic funding request in our Tool Centre2data was getting lost, opportunities were being missed. We knew if we could create an interactive platform that local Green Map teams could use — sometimes in parallel with, sometimes instead of — a print map, we could expedite communication and progress across the board. We wondered how the perspective-changing impact of the printed map would transfer to the local-colourless interactive map — would it be as effective? And with the economic crash of 2008, we were also concerned about lowering the cost of participation in the movement. Accordingly, we did not charge additional fees to create Open Green Maps, despite the continual associated costs. Are there similar projects, did these stimulate you, and are you linked to them in any way? The Green Map network already included 400 locally-led projects when we began developing the Open Green Map ‘social mapping’ platform. As part of the discovery process, several mapping platforms, social networking sites and their underlying content management tools were assessed, shedding light on shortcomings, design

1  Google Maps API, and Drupal, 2  Green Map’s Tool Center has dozens of resources for community-engaged mapmaking. The public can view them in the website’s Resources section, but currently only logged-in users can access them. We expect to open them up to everyone soon.


flaws and the preferences of the public. To shape assumptions and overall trajectory, we took part in events such as the NetSquared Challenge and Where 2.03 during the development of the design brief. The review process included everything from marketing to Terms of Use utilised on popular and mission-driven websites such as the Open Architecture Network4 as well as standard-setting social media. We also reviewed Green Map platforms designed in Budapest, Cork, Tokyo and Geneva to meet local needs, although it was difficult to find other examples of mapping platforms focused on sustainability. We noted vexing problems like vandalism and spam associated with completely open websites such as Wikipedia. To avoid such issues, we opted for a ‘semi-open’ model, where all sites are locally moderated according to a specific locale’s Green Map and we also made it easy for Mapmakers to work with varying contributors. All of the maps and data are also aggregated in Open Green Map’s World View Map and on our basic mobile viewer. New mapping platforms such as Open Street Map5 were just coming into use by tech-savvy users, but were not yet ready for the less-technically minded members of the diverse Green Map network. We selected the more familiar Google Map as our base map as we aimed to reduce barriers to participation and catalyse local collaboration across cultural and geographic barriers. So much about location-based technology has changed in five years since we launched, including the map itself, which now has, for the first time, the ability to know where its user is located! How does — and how should — this ‘awareness’ impact our platform’s future? Now Open Green Maps can be embedded in social media and their sites can share videos and images already on YouTube and Flickr. Mapmakers can export their maps’ data to be used in various ways, and have created graphs, lightboxes and other displays. Eventually, we expect that Open Green Map users will be able to choose amongst a variety of open platforms and formats to reach and engage diverse local and global audiences. How did the idea evolve? Think Local, Map Social! The specifics of Open Green Map took time to tease out. We carefully considered the many differing needs of the city agencies, youth and community groups, designers, nonprofits and universities involved in the Green Map network, as well as those who would join the network in the future. As a result, Open Green Map was developed as a flexible resource that increases each team’s

3  See NetSquared, NetSquared’s vision is to make it easy, meaningful, and fun for people and organisations to get the information, visibility and support they need to maximise technology for social good. See also, Where2.0,, ‘Where Conference: The Art and Business of Location, is where the grassroots and leading-edge developers building location-aware technology intersect with the businesses and entrepreneurs seeking out location apps, platforms, and hardware to gain a competitive edge.’ 4  The Open Architecture Network is an online, open-source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design. 5  Open Street Map, is built by a community of mappers that contribute and maintain data about roads, trails, cafés, railway stations, and much more, all over the world.



potential to engage and garner greater participation from the public, as partners, as site proposers and map users. Over time we have added new languages to the interface – now there are nine. We also added the ability to create lines and polygons, so resources such as bike lanes or historic areas could be charted. We created widgets and apps to view the data on other websites and mobiles. In 2013 we updated the base map and simplified the presentation of site information, and made progress toward our goal of open development. In 2014, our partners at Harte Verde Association of Romania created a fun new responsive web app for collecting sites on the go. The Mobile Site Collector6 can be used on devices or on the desktop. Inclusively designed by Ciprian Samoila and Bogdan Szabo, it can even be used offline. We think it will be quite popular! Our longer term goal is to replace the whole platform with a more agile, open and extensible platform that will make co-development and data sharing easy and exciting. We look forward to partnering to openly share Mapmakers have the next Green Map platform with new communities, surprised us with new and co-creating new applications and services that to involve community support a more resilient, verdant and just future for all. As of June 2014, there are 35,000 sites on 400 Open Green Maps. Sites can be shared between maps, and all can be viewed on a world map as well as individually (with potential connection via Quick Response (QR) code to an onsite marker). Mapmakers have surprised us with new ways to involve community in the mapmaking process, and it’s been exciting to see how features have been implemented. What are/were key organisational aspects and organisational structures? While we had progressed towards advancing our technology, it wasn’t until developer Thomas Turnbull joined our staff in 2007 that we could implement our plan. First, Thomas completely re-built as a presentation, registration, and tool centre, ready to manage the new mapmakers attracted by Open Green Map (which turned out to be quite useful, our network doubled in size once word got out!). With its new content management system (CMS), this upgrade radically reduced administrative tasks and gave our team time to develop the mapping platform. Much of the data collected in’s profiles would double as metadata for the projects on Open Green Map, too. Next, our staff and global Mapmakers finalised Green Map Icons, version 3. This ‘living lexicon’ of symbols was designed to evolve with our understanding of sustainability at the community level, and we completed the five years network-wide discussion in spring 2008. As seen at, the set includes 170 icons. Used as an inventory tool by mapmakers, each icon is displayed and defined on Open Green Map (in the nine languages available in its interface).

6  The Mobile Open Site Collector, enables anyone to put a green place or resource online.


After much discussion in house, with the network and with advisors, our mapping platform was designed to include: • An Info tab alongside every map that links to the Mapmaker’s profile, website, and print map PDFs as well as site statistics and map introduction. • Public interaction — every site is open to public comments, ratings, images and videos, with a mapmaker notification and dashboard system for easy moderation. • A translatable interface, with default language options. Any language can be used in site descriptions and comments. • An interactive legend that gives users the ability to toggle off Green Map Icons and related sites. Hover feature provides definitions for quick reference. • Three levels of permissions for flexible management of Map teams. • Tools to embed these maps and export the data for use on print maps, GIS or Google Earth. • Education, graphics, promotion and media resources. We soft-launched the new platform in late 2008, and watched how it met — or missed — Green Mapmakers’ needs. Bugs were caught and fixed, features were added, and before long, there were 4000 sites on fifty interactive maps and we were ready to go public. With thirteen parties in ten countries, Green Map System launched the platform on World Environment Day7 2009. Since that time, we have done extensive outreach, lots of trainings and user support, and fixed a slew of issues alongside refinements and new features. We’ve also won numerous awards and envisioned the platform’s future. Was the organisation informal or formal? Green Map System is a non-profit organisation, active since 1995, with official status since year 2000. Key funding/financial aspects - Finances: Is/Was there funding involved? The initial budget for the Open Green Map platform was US $200000. Approximately fifty percent more was donated - much was delivered at rock-bottom nonprofit rates or by volunteers. Everyone involved was very generous with their time, and several new funders, crowdfunders and donors contributed to this project.8 We are fortunate to have ongoing support from developers including Thomas Turnbull, who is now President of our Board of Directors. Mapmakers contributed

7  ‘World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanising individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.’ 8  See Sponsors on the home page for details.


about fifteen percent of the Open Green Map budget, primarily through our annual fee which is based on their own organisation’s type and their country’s average income. Mapmakers can offer a service instead, so translation, marketing, localised capacity-building, etc., are often provided.

ACTING & DOING What are or were the key activities? Every day, more people turn to maps and location-based tools to navigate their way through life. In support of this demand, Green Map System wanted to create a robust interactive mapping resource that would be easy for the diverse Green Map teams around the world to use, open to public contextualisation, and become a trusted resource for sustainability information. It would include map team codevelopment and marketing resources, a multilingual interface, provide for map sharing, and attract enough support to make continual development, a mobile website, and other extensions and collaborations possible on a continual basis. With Open Green Map we created a global database of spatially organised sustainable sites, designed to introduce residents and visitors to local nature, culture and green living resources such as farmers markets, solar sites and bike lanes, as well as to negatives — poor labour practices, gentrification, and blight sites, all to help guide citizens toward making better everyday choices. What are or were the key approach & methods? We are frugal innovators. We sought to use low cost, open and updatable tools to make our platform. Now, some of the choices we made make it feel dated and inflexible, but this is a normal condition of technology. We did not realise how difficult it would be in terms of time, money and energy to keep Open Green Map up-to-date, nor to move to a fully open resource. Foundations seem to prefer new and novel rather than tried and true, and increasingly in the United States, domestic projects rather than global ones. How did you get people participating? We have a long track record and with our prolific network, millions of people know about Green Maps. An online mapping platform offers new challenges. We have applied much of our modest marketing budget to creating replicable graphics and tools, such as our 2013 Social Media Guide and downloads found under the Resources menu. Open Green Map Awards have helped to engage new participation, too. These include: Victor J. Papanek Social Design Award 2012, NetSquared Invitational Winner 2011, Treehugger Best of Green, mobile 2011 and platform 2010, Living Labs Global Gold Award 2010, INDEX Awards Finalist 2009, Cause/Affect Third 2009, Tele Atlas Maps in Apps 2008.


What are/were the key communication channels and methods? Online discussion forum, in-house meetings, Skype, in person trainings and demos of the platform, locally and globally. Media use and efficacy? We have some reach with media,9 but maps are not as newsworthy as events that build or launch new maps. So we encourage our network to produce and promote dynamic events and involve diverse stakeholders. What are/were the outcomes with reference to the target audience? Many Green Mapmakers use Open Green Maps interchangeably with print maps. For example Cape Town Green Map utilised the radio as an outreach vehicle, and encouraged people to call in site suggestions or add them to the interactive map, which is embedded on their website, Data is also exported and the city’s new print editions reach a different demographic. Now, six years in, this award-winning project has its fifth edition on press! We are delighted that 400 new Green Maps are in use, sharing progress and connecting communities to their local resources. With Open Green Maps being made in rural Lebanon, small towns in Brazil, and in major cities from Indonesia to the Nordic countries to the United States, the impacts vary greatly. In order to demonstrate these effects, we created a book to share some of these stories.10 There are even Open Green Maps that look into the future. For example, Girona in Catalonia Spain has mapped hundreds of approved sustainable energy plans.11

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is/was the project sustained? Every Green Mapmaker contributes annually, but this represents a small portion of Open Green Map’s full budget. We are seeking new ways to keep our finances in balance. What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? We have used all kinds of resources to sustain this initiative. Although we promote green enterprises, Green Map System has always discouraged Mapmakers from levelling a charge for being listed on the map. In terms of other capitals, everything that supports the internet and specifically a web platform were used intensely: a combination of social, public and commercial infrastructure capitals, but also individual human capital and a local social network of map information providers (i.e. social capital).

9   See 10  See 11  See


Is it self-sustaining now, or will it be in the future? No, but as we open the project to new possibilities, it may become self-sustaining in the future. Are you happy with the project? It has been exciting to develop, share and plan for. It has been transformational! But the biggest challenge is the continual degradation of the environment and climate. Involving more people is critical, and Green Map’s informative, engaging tools and infrastructure are becoming more important every day. Would you change anything? Technology demands a yes to this question! Was the project as you expected or did you encounter anything unexpected? The cost of continual maintenance, changes in the underlying systems and new feature requests have become significantly higher than initially planned. Although the number of Green Map projects has grown specifically as a result of this platform, the growth in income has yet to be balanced. Foundations are not keen on funding the continual growth of existing platforms, so the non-profit is developing new collaborations, services and sponsorships for the next phases of Open Green Map development. Is the project scalable? Yes, it was designed to be scaled, and with 400 maps publicly available, we have met this goal. For us, it’s also exciting to look ahead at the new tools that will even more effectively engage people in addressing change at the local level. What are your future plans? Discover what people value most about the platform, new and better ways to increase the value, rebuild as an open source and decentralised resource with selfsustaining mechanism.

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? Hundreds of people have been on Green Map teams, and thousands have contributed site suggestions, images, videos, comments and ratings. Impacting both emerging and established green communities, there are more than 550 printed editions and more than 400 Open Green Maps continually evolve. The project created a database of 35000 locally sourced site descriptions catalogued by the icon; 400 readily updated maps made in 40 countries; capacitybuilding in diverse settings; recognition for the movement and local participants.


What capacity did you build? How did you change people’s lives? Green Mapmaking builds skills in communications, project management, community organising, and extends this capacity by building local networks and knowledge. Open Green Map has given many their first interactive mapping experience, and helped many reveal a part of their city that too few appreciate. Map users can experience their own communities, or the ones they visit, anew. This year, we realised Open Green Map is one of the few platforms that invites public contextualisation of mapped sites. We have had many inquiries asking how we designed its features, for example how the legend slides open smoothly, definitions appear and icons toggle. Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? Yes!

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned? About people: As a platform, Open Green Map has benefited from the insights and help of so many great people — it will always need many hands! It’s a tool, not a panacea. About technology: We lack good documentation of how Open Green Map was built and refined. Made before web development tracking tools like GitHub12 were available, this gap has made itself felt many times, in some cases making our apps un-repairable. The latest generation of online mapping tools is quite amazing and cost effective, yet without support for an on-going tech director, it's difficult to shift forward with clarity. Durable, flexible business planning is critical. Minimal viable product (MVP)13 is a good way to address technology projects now. Define the core concept, build just that, see how people use it, assess demand, and then build it up from there. What can be given as advice for the readers? Be iterative. Share progress with partners. Be flexible. Be resourceful! Dream big, but work together to make that dream a reality.

12  GitHub is an open development documentation resource which can be used for Information Technology and for other types of co-development. Here’s an interesting example, 13  Minimum viable product is ‘is the product with the highest return on investment versus risk.’ http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Minimum_viable_product


Camp Pixelache in Vartiosaari 2014. Š Ero-Erik Raitanen.

Camp Pixelache is an annual gathering and an evolving experiment in developing an open self-organising, participatory format within a relatively intimate but international cultural festival. It includes different sites, venues and ways for participants to share their work and passions. Andrew Gryf Paterson, born 1974, is a Scottish artist-organiser, cultural producer, and independent researcher, based in Helsinki, Finland. Andrew works across the fields of media/ network/ environmental arts and activism, specialising in workshop design, participatory platforms for engagement, and facilitation. He has been involved in Pixelache activities since 2004, and from 2011-2014 has been coordinator and facilitator of Pixelache Helsinki’s outreach and educational programme.

Case Study

Camp Pixelache by Andrew Gryf Paterson

Purpose/ aim of the project: The idea emerged from the Pixelache office at the time to experiment with setting aside an open day (and later a weekend) in the festival, to adapt and develop open self-organising and sustainable formats within or accompanying curated cultural festivals. Camp Pixelache has evolved from Pixelache Helsinki Festival, an international festival of transdisciplinary art, design, research and activism, which began as a festival of electronic arts and subcultures in 2002. Name(s) of the people involved: Camp Pixelache has evolved from Pixelache Helsinki Festival, an international festival of transdisciplinary art, design, research and activism, which began as a festival of electronic arts and subcultures in 2002. Over the years the number of Camp Pixelache participants have included hundred or more participants, involving hybrid professional artists, designers, hackers and programmers, urban activists, programmers, social scientists, as well as students from various art and design universities. Various Pixelache association members, staff and volunteers have produced and organised the event. Consistently over five years, Nathalie Aubret from Pixelache has been the main producer or event organiser, in collaboration with former artistic director Juha Huuskonen (2010, 2011). Significant facilitators in addition include Mike Bradshaw from BarCamp Helsinki (2010, 2012); Andrew Gryf Paterson from Pixelache (2012, 2013); John Fail from Pixelache (2014) and guest-host Oliver Kotcha-Kalleinen (2014). Key stakeholders: Participants themselves, host organisation/institution, international partners. Geographic location: The geographic location of Camp Pixelache has changed each year, and the event absorbs features of each location. On the first year, in 2010, it took place in the Kerava Art Museum approximately thirty kilometres from Helsinki centre, using the large upper level gallery spaces that were empty in between the Art Museum's exhibition programme. Then, in 2011 Camp Pixelache took place in various venues on Suomenlinna fortress — a heritage island near to Helsinki. Arbis Swedish Centre of Adult Education in central Helsinki served as venue for the Camp in 2012. The relationship of Camp


Pixelache with islands continued in 2013 with the use of Estonian conductor Tonu Kaljuste's sustainability-themed concert hall, and also at the accommodation hostel on nature island Naisaar off the coast of Tallinn, Estonia. Lastly in 2014, the most recent Camp, until now, took place at a cluster of different venues on Vartiosaari, an archipelago nature island in the Eastern Helsinki suburbs under threat of urban development. Supported by: The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (OKM) and the Helsinki City Cultural Office. Start date/Finish date: 2010-ongoing. Website or other online resources?,

BEGINNING What triggered the project? The Camp model emerged in Pixelache Helsinki Festival due to an increasing number of people who were willing to attend (and travel internationally) the Festival between 2007-2009, and a lack of curatorial resources and physical spaces in the venues used at the time to host them. What was your motivation? I was involved in the early years as a Pixelache association member, and I was already interested in the 'Camp' format, participatory arts, and facilitation, and as a result I was motivated to take the role of Camp facilitator for the 2012 and 2013 editions. Are there similar projects, did these stimulate you and are you linked to them in any way? The Camp format is inspired by, and to some degree following, the Open Space Technology model, a meeting methodology,1 introduced by Harrison Owen in 1985: “each person [in the meeting] determined that they had some area of exploration they would like to pursue”,2 and then they made time and space within the event to do it, inviting others who were interested.

1  ‘Open Space Technology is an approach to purpose-based leadership, including a way for hosting meetings, conferences, corporate-style retreats, symposiums, and community summit events, focused on a specific and important purpose or task—but beginning without any formal agenda, beyond the overall purpose or theme’. More info: http:// 2  Owen, H. (unknown). Opening space for emerging order. Online article: brief_history.htm


In the dynamic media, arts and technology festival context of Northern Europe, from the early 2000s onwards, emerging open-source software and participatory online platforms were not only presented and applied, but also influenced the way events were organised. While Web 2.0 promoters such as O'Reilly were describing “the architecture of participation” as that “designed for user contribution”,3 media arts festivals, such as Pixelache, and specialist practitioner gatherings were exploring alternative structures for participation,4 which employ open calls for participation, and self-organisation by many of the festival/workshop attendees, who are also enthusiasts in the field. Emerging from California in 2005, self-organised meetings of technology enthusiasts, known as BarCamps,5 began to share online a set of organisational procedures, then developing an Open Space Technology experience, making it accessible to different communities of practice and interest internationally, and among a younger generation. How did the idea evolve? In 2009, the first Open Forum event took place for several hours in the Pixelache Helsinki Festival programme, at the initiative of artistic director Juha Huuskonen. This later was expanded into one full day outside Helsinki, hosted at the Kerava Art Museum, and later became a two days event, evolving away from the BarCamp model.6 Whereas the BarCamp model focused mostly on short presentations or discussions, Camp Pixelache adopted additional participatory formats, including accompanying demos and exhibits (2010), demonstration tables and exhibits (20122013), participatory workshops including both digital and non-digital activities, from Do-It Yourself (DIY) electronics to print-making (2013-2014), and also guided tours and expeditions outside from the Camp venues (2013-2014). What are/were the key organisational aspects and organisational structures? The key roles were as follows: Pixelache (association) members; producer(s), otherwise known as event organiser(s); Facilitator(s); Volunteers; Venue Host(s); camp participants were contributing at the events and helping to build the daily schedules; audience par-

3  O’Reilly, T., 2004. The architecture of participation. Online article. articles/architecture_of_participation.html 4  Huuskonen, J., 2007. Architectures for participation. Thematic curation. Pixelache Festival. http://www.pixelache. ac/festivals/festival-2007/theme/architectures-for-participation 5  BarCamp, 2005.. Adhoc event organising format. Wiki website. 6  ‘BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences primarily focused around technology and the web. They are open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is provided by participants’. Source:


ticipants, who had not formally proposed something for the schedule but participated in the discussion. Was the organisation informal or formal? A formally registered cultural association, Pixelache, organised the Camp Pixelache events. Target audience and network(s)? Professional artists, designers, hackers and programmers, urban activists, programmers, social scientists, as well as students from various art and design universities with interest in the above disciplines or practices. Key funding/financial aspects? Public cultural funding supported the production costs of the events, including support from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (OKM), as well as additional festival grants from OKM and the Helsinki City Cultural Office. The events were free to participate. In the case of the 2013 event, the travel costs to Naissaar and food paid or subsidised by Pixelache. Other years, food arrangements were handled similarly.

ACTING & DOING What are or were the key activities? Event organiser(s): Communications in advance of the open call for participation Facilitator(s): Facilitation of in advance expressions of interest online in collaborative Etherpad7; particular communications related to on-site resources, for example in the case of workshops; facilitation of activities on the days of the Camp; assisting with the needs of and updates to the programmers. What are or were the key approach & methods? Open-mindedness, self-organisation and production sustainability in relation to local and international guest-participant's contribution in a cultural festival. How did you get people participating? We invited people to participate in advance through open calls via our Pixelache email newsletter, regional and international email lists, and the most relevant social media (latterly Twitter & Facebook). This is done in iteration, with one or two reminders, as the event gets closer. It was also possible for participants to turn up on the day to propose some new activity for those present.

7  ‘Etherpad is a highly customizable Open Source, online editor providing collaborative editing in really real-time’,


What is/was essential for practical matters? Essential for practical matters was the skillful ability to encourage and facilitate peoples' participation in the event, at least at Essential for practical the beginning, but ideally also throughout the matters was the skillful event. Shared access to the dynamic schedule information and contributions is also essenability to encourage tial. Availability of multiple rooms and enviand facilitate peoples’ ronments to gather all people together at the participation in the event beginning of the Camp day, as well as at least two or three other spaces where different discussions could take place afterwards, without interfering with each other acoustically. What are/were the key communication channels and methods? Two different communication channels and methods were adopted from the BarCamp approach. Firstly, during the event, there was a physical, offline schedule that marked out the time schedule of the Camp day(s) into a 'grid' sheet which included time schedule and physical spaces for gathering, also known as the 'grid'. In the first three years (2010-2012) the offline schedule was done with post-it notes on a foamboard. In 2013-2014, a fabric version of this scheduling grid was made and used, using Velcro and felt, dubbed the ‘felt-excel’, after the popular spreadsheet software. On the most recent occasion in 2014, a megaphone was a welcome addition updating gathered people about what would soon happen at a certain time and where. Furthermore, for advance communications online, and post-event documentations online, collaborative documents were used with the aim of allowing multiple people

Facilitating the Grid at the festival in 2013. © Antti Ahonen.


to access and edit their information. Hence Pixelache office used a wiki platform in 2010-2011, and Etherpad in 2012-2014. Media use and efficacy? In practice the use of the wiki platform in 2010-2011 was mostly limited to those working in Pixelache office, rather than being accessible to a larger number of participants. When Etherpad was adopted as a collaborative space online, more of the Camp participants used this online space in advance of the event, to nominate and propose their contribution. The use of email, newsletter and social media to encourage participants from the Pixelache Helsinki Festival audience was effective, however, knowing that we were communicating to an informed audience. Arguably in all events, it was difficult to reach beyond to a new audience who was not knowledgeable or taking part in the Festival events that year already. What are/were the outcomes with reference to the target audience? If acknowledging that the main aim of the Camp events was to encourage the selforganisation of the participants in creating the content of some parts of the festival, and promote dialogue and exchange of ideas, projects and demos, the outcome of the Camp events was an increasingly diverse and eclectic range of contributions. What are/were the impacts — target audience and wider? The Camp Pixelache events from 2010-2014 brought in a wider and diverse group of participants to Pixelache Helsinki Festival. Beyond the usual range of participants from Western Europe and Nordic countries, there was dedicated support from regional participants from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (2012-2014), north-west Russia (2012-2013) and Belarus (2013).

Workshop in 2013. Š Antti Ahonen.


Demo Tables in 2012. Š Antti Ahonen.

The format encouraged relaxed exchange and 'getting-to-know' each other in an informal way, and so it had a positive impact on professional and social networking between persons. Several collaborations, friendships and partnerships have emerged as an outcome. In the case of the 2013 Camp edition, the ‘Facing North Facing South’ theme of that year’s festival included a larger number of international participants from South America. The example of Camp Pixelache as an approach to a cultural festival spread with the target audience (the participants themselves) back to their home destinations. As an outcome also, the start of a Brazilian node of Pixelache network emerged in 2013, initiated by several attendees of the Camp. 2-5.4.2009 — Open Forum event in Pixelache Helsinki Festival • Approximately eighty participants-audience. • First time running the open forum event in the festival’s schedule, where anyone could contribute with a short ten minutes presentation • Programme facilitated by Juha Huuskonen. 26.3.2010 — First Camp Pixelache event at Kerava Taidemuseo, Kerava • Approximately 250 participants-audience. • First time making the ‘grid’ schedule combining advance proposals with proposals on the Camp day. • One floor venue for presentation and discussion events in five separate and open-plan spaces. • Featured the openings of two exhibitions. • Camp Pixelache exhibition with many pre-negotiated artworks and experimental design projects, Pixelache participants, both professionals and student groups from various organisations and educational institutions. • Programme facilitated by Juha Huuskonen and Mike Bradshaw (who explained the BarCamp method). 12-13.3.2011 — Second Camp Pixelache event on Suomenlinna, Helsinki • Approximately 250 participants-audience rising to 750, including exhibition visitors. • First time Festival without Kiasma as one of the venues. • First time extending open camp schedule over two days at the weekend, where ‘Anyone with a festival pass can propose a topic’. • Camp Pixelache exhibition with a mix of curated and negotiated contributions, including fifteen new projects, most of which were presented to the audience for the first time. • Various spaces in different venues on the island for presentation, panel and discussion formats. • Programme facilitated by Juha Huuskonen.


12.5.2012 — Third Camp Pixelache event at Arbis Swedish Centre for Adult Education, Central Helsinki • First time with only one venue for the Festival • Approximately 300 participants-audience (500 including pre-camp keynote, and post-camp club event) • Camp Pixelache was one full day of the Festival’s programme (Saturday). • Camp Pixelache event was related to larger around-the-year activities in the 'Pixelversity' programme • Return to one-day format of unconference,8 with thematic 'plenary' talks interspersed in open sessions. • One floor in the venue with four to five distinct spaces for presentations or discussion formats. • Open call for 'demo' presentations on tables in the passageway. • Programme facilitated by Mike Bradshaw and Andrew Gryf Paterson. 18-19.5.2013 — Fourth Camp Pixelache event at Naissaar island, Estonia • Approximately 110 participants-audience (maximum number pre-registered to attend). • First time the Festival took place as a dual city event, with half at SuvilahtiHelsinki and the other half in Tallinn-Naissaar • Camp Pixelache’s location was influenced by the 'Facing North Facing South' thematic of the Festival, ie to take place in Tallinn, Estonia, to the south of Helsinki across the Baltic. • Camp Pixelache was related to a larger around-the-year networking activity in 'Pixelversity' programme. • Open camp schedule over two days, including evening/night programme. • Open call for workshops, confirmed in advance according to resources and venue support. • Indoors and for first time, outdoors activities, including expeditions. • Programme facilitated by Andrew Gryf Paterson. 7-8.6.2014 — Fifth Camp Pixelache event at Vartiosaari island, Eastern Helsinki • Approximately 140-160 participants-audience. • Weekend Festival programme (Saturday-Sunday), including collective travel between central Helsinki-Vartiosaari-central Helsinki. • Camp Pixelache’s location was influenced by 'The Commons', the theme of the Festival due to the interpretation and potential of the island as an urban nature commons under threat of development.

8  An unconference, also called OpenSpace conference is a participant-driven meeting. The term “unconference” has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as fees, sponsored presentations, and top-down organization. Source: Unconference


• • • • •

First time actual camping, with tents sfor sixty percent of the participants. Open camp schedule over two days, including informal evening/night programme. Open call for workshops, confirmed in advance according to resources and venue support. Indoors and for first time, outdoors activities, including expeditions. Programme facilitated by John Fail and Oliver Kotcha-Kallainen (guest-host & partner on Vartiosaari).

Exhibition in 2011. © Miska Michael Knapek.

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is/was the project sustained? Camp Pixelache has been sustained by our organisation’s ongoing wish and need to explore new festival curating models, but also by the wish of Pixelache Festival’s community, both old and new to self-attribute and contribute to the occasion. What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? Festival participants are the core social capital of the project, and the source of human intellectual capital involved, sharing their projects, ideas, comments and activities with others. Camp Pixelache project is also supported by human capital, through the ongoing work of paid and volunteer work of Pixelache association members and partners. In the first years in 2010-2011, there was one part/full-time artistic director in-


volved in facilitating the programme. One full-time coordinator/producer has been involved around the year in production on each occasion between 2010 and 2014; and between 2012 and 2013, one part-time (myself) involved in facilitating the programme. In 2014, the facilitators were involved for a month in advance. Ideas and conceptual development has been sustained by association members, board and staff. Each location and host venue had infrastructural capital which we used, and in the case of the island Camps (Suomenlinna, Naissaar, Vartiosaari) we also used natural capital (the landscape and environment) as gathering places and for expeditions or walks. Financial capital, via public cultural funding has also significantly supported and sustained the project. It has been important to make the financial barrier for participation as low as possible, and to make the event/Camp free to share and take part where possible. Is it self-sustaining now or will it be in the future? Due to the development and evolution of Camp Pixelache annually over five years, and its concept as a part or main feature of Pixelache Helsinki Festival, it is selfsustaining. The Camp Pixelache event will take place as long as Pixelache association members wish it to be an event. However, it is also based upon not necessarily self-sustaining elements which change over time — coordinating producers or facilitators, and production funding to make it happen. Are you happy with the project? Participants’ feedback to Pixelache’s office has regularly been largely positive, and as a professional gathering space for a series of events it has arguably been successful, making them happy endeavours. Each Camp has offered different experiences and challenges, blending the open and self-organising format of BarCamp/ unconference into each cultural festival production. Would you change anything? Each location offered different potentials and opportunities to explore ways of gathering people and projects in those venues. However, it also meant that we did not accumulative knowledge about how to do it better in the same location. Infrastructure at the venue could have also be planned further in advance, although in practice this is not always easy to arrange. Was the project as you expected or did you encounter anything unexpected? What started as a way to facilitate better local and international festival participants’ ambitions to contribute to the programme, as a side event, proved latterly to be an important, indeed central feature of Pixelache Helsinki Festival. It became a tool to promote diversity and transdisciplinarity in art, cultural and social practice.


Unexpectedly, after moving from the regular venue of Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, which hosted the festival from 2003 to 2010, the Camp and the island locations proved to be strongly inter-related. The Naissaar and Vartiosaari Camps were mostly offline events, without stable access to internet. This proved to be popular and pleasant for participants who are saturated with online network connectivity. Is the project scalable? The project is scalable based on the venue that hosts it, and the production team who are available to facilitate it. We found that the numbers of persons who might be able to interact with each other are based on these factors. As the BarCamp/ unconference model has been widely copied and applied in many places within the Information Technology (IT) community, our adoption and adaptation of it into a cultural festival community could also be tried by others. There are many different interpretations of a ‘camp’, which we have explored, from conceptual to literal and real, for example, with tents. However, in practice it requires a generous, open-minded participatory-audience to accept the uncertainties that come with it (i.e. what people are going to listen to, attend, and take part in). What are your future plans? The format of Camp Pixelache is open and undecided, although it has been proposed that we would either repeat the occasion at the last venue, or reverse the amount of time allocated to building up rapport between participants. For example that a longer time be spent in a rural, offline location to assist people in getting to know each other, and presenting the results in a curated structured way at the end in the city.

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? At the time of writing, five Camp events have been produced annually since 2010, involving over 1200 participants. What capacity did you build? How did you change people’s lives? A key outcome and impact over the years was the evolution of a curated festival into one which included a substantial programme that was self-organised contentwise by the participants. For some, this offered a more diverse and inclusive space to participate, and promoted a diverse range of contributors from different backgrounds. On the other hand, it also made the Camp Pixelache’s events difficult to communicate in advance, and on occasions also afterwards: What was discussed and shared? Did you then have to be there to know what it was about? Did this make it an insiders’ event, more exclusive?


Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? After some consideration, I think the answer’s “Yes”. It gave more space for festival participants to relate to what they wished to share with others, and this transformed the festival structure.

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned? There was an ongoing tension in Camp Pixelache between keeping the schedule open, and international participants wishing to confirm their attendance. For many in the cultural and academic scenes, there is an expectation and habit of 'performing' at festivals or conferences, either as a talk or some other format, for a certain length of time, as an advancement of personal career or profile. Leaving the details open and uncertain until the event itself is not comfortable for everyone. Some event formats were difficult to schedule together, such as short presentations versus longer presentations: Who gets to be plenary speaker or gets more space than others? We also had to mix together pre-selected contributions such as workshops curated by Pixelache’s office, with spontaneous contributions. On the last occasion in 2014, this was a particular issue, when many advance contributions were offered with a limited amount of venue space available. There is a limit of open call and open planning in this case. The features, Leaving the details open architecture and interactions between people of and uncertain until the Camp venues had a strong impact on the way the event itself is not the event took place, and the way in which people comfortable for everyone interacted. For example, the traditional learning classroom infrastructure of Arbis Swedish Centre for Adult Learning in 2012 increased presentation formats, rather than open discussions. Or the only warm space with fireplace on the first cold day of the Naissaar Camp gathered the most people. Venues which were spaced further apart from each other, such was the case in Suomenlinna or Vartiosaari, hindered the ability for people to switch attendance ‘with their feet’ (i.e. get up and go somewhere else) as promoted in the BarCamp model, and were harder to facilitate. We learned with experience, that rather than one or two main facilitators, it would have been useful to have identified in advance a facilitator for each space used to gather people at the event. For example, people did not always remember to keep to the time schedule. Furthermore, there was always the difficulty of updating the online information during or after the event itself. Documentation of the conversations was often lost as they were recorded in personal notebooks, etc. and rarely shared afterwards. Identified note-takers or scribes could be helpful to gather notes about the topics presented. An outside moderator, recapping maybe the connections between activities could also help: Story-tellers or ‘observers-in-residence’ at the Camp.


What can be given as advice for the readers? • Do experiment with different formats that will suit your participant-audience. • Do be flexible and allow your production team and participant-audience to think on their feet. • Do trust that spending intensive time together has an effect. • Don’t expect things to all work out as planned. • Don’t expect the online and offline aspects to merge seamlessly

Tents at the location in Vartiosaari, 2014 © Erno-Erik Raitanen.


Going on an urban foraging bike ride. Š Joel Rosenberg.

Satokartta is a fruit map and a mapping process of Helsinki’s public edible trees and shrubs. It started with an Urban Foraging Ride in 2009 and continues today to explore the edible city. Joel Rosenberg is a nature and wilderness guide and an artist.

Case Study

Satokartta by Joel Rosenberg

Purpose/aim of the project: To map Helsinki's public fruit trees and berry bushes, publicise the information and encourage people to go foraging and continue the mapping. Names of people involved: Joel Rosenberg and all the urban foragers who have given tips on the public fruit trees and berries of Helsinki. Target audience: The residents of Helsinki and visitors, and now also the neighbouring cities. Geographic location: Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, Finland. Supported by: Grants and remuneration for foraging tours as part of Helsinki Adult Education Institute, and for designing a week-long course based on urban foraging for Aalto University in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Start date/Finish date: 2009 — on-going. Website or other online resource:

Picking sea-buckthorn berries. Š Joel Rosenberg. 215

BEGINNING What triggered the project? An urban gardening project I was involved in 2009. I realised that there are a lot of edible things growing in the city, on public land, without anyone particularly ‘growing’ it. So, I started mapping them. What was your motivation? My love of fruit trees, maps, cycling and the joy of urban adventures. Are there similar projects and did these stimulate you and are you linked to them in any way? There are fruit maps in many cities around the world. I had heard of people doing tours, but I didn't know about the mapping when I started. I'm not linked to many of them, but have been in touch with the founder of Boskoi1 (in the Netherlands). How did the idea evolve? I wanted to do something that felt significant and that was my own. Basically I just went cycling, found new places, created a relationship with them by tasting the urban harvest, put a dot to the map and I kept doing this every summer. Satokartta started as a series of Urban Foraging Rides where I invited my friends and basically anyone interested to come and explore the urban edibles. I then started to mark the trees on a paper map but I soon realised the potential I wanted to do something of crowdsourcing, so I started asking tips from locals. that felt significant and Then I started a Google Map and I created an email that was my own address for the project. There’s been a webpage since 2011. In 2013, I started to explore the neighbouring cities of Espoo and Vantaa a little. I cycle to every location when I get a tip, and check them first before putting them on the map. What are/were the key organisational aspects and organisational structures? It's just me doing the mapping and hosting the page, but I get dozens of tips every year. Was the organisation informal or formal? Informal. It’s just me. Key funding/financial aspects? In 2011, I got a grant of €2 000, as well as in 2013. I started giving foraging tours as part of Helsinki Adult Education Institute and I designed a week-long course based on urban foraging for Aalto University in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

1  See more here:


ACTING & DOING What are/were the key activities? Public foraging rides, and my personal exploration and mapping. What are/were the key approach & methods? Cycling, asking for tips on public fruit trees (address, fruit quality, time of ripening‌), then updating the map on the Satokartta website. How did you get people participating? Through direct invitations, and as a result, thanks to many articles in newspapers, blogs, etc. about Satokartta and urban foraging. It's fun, playful, different, and people are interested in their surroundings. Ultra-local food is a trend too. What is/was essential for practical matters? Recognising the species and knowing when they are ready for harvesting. I think I have an eye for them now and I can recognise most fruit trees and shrubs from a distance, even without leaves in winter. After a couple of years I now have an overview of the ripening times of the different species and varieties under various conditions. What are/were the key communication channels and methods? My web page, newspaper articles and radio interviews, email-lists. I started the Urban Foraging Ride course at the Helsinki Adult Education Institute so I could reach different people from that angle. Media use and efficacy? I sent press releases when I opened the webpage, invited people via Facebook/email to join the rides and to give tips. What are/were the dates of special or key-events? The first foraging ride in September 2009. Then the first half page article in Helsingin Sanomat in August 2011, after the opening of the Satokartta webpage. From the start there have been numerous beautiful encounters between me and the trees! The project is seasonal. After the best harvesting period in the first two weeks of September, it starts to slow down a bit and hibernates after October. It starts to re-activate in May when the trees flower. July brings the joy of the first harvests of cherries and currants. August is busy too, and people contact me more often then.

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is/was the project sustained? Passion mixed with dutifulness.


What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? My bike, the internet and a computer are the tools. I have had to use my networks a lot to build an audience in order to make the project take off. Fruits grow thanks to solar energy. I enjoy working with nature that uses renewable ‘capital’, not nonrenewable fossil fuels or energy. Is it self-sustaining now or will it be in the future? Kind of self-sustaining, but of course, there isn't every tree and bush on the map and there never will be. It is in usable condition and popular, but I don't have the capacity to respond to every new tip. The new fruit sites start to be a bit far away now as the easiest ones are on the map already, and I am moving away too, so future mapping has to be continued by others. I am the only one who can add info to the Satokartta map. I have considered opening it up to others but currently I prefer to check every fruit tree tip I get to make sure every tree and shrub is properly recognised and evaluated. I've got tips of shrubs that have non-edible berries which can't go to the map. But I have just moved two hundred kilometres away from Helsinki and visits back there are short and irregular, so I should think of how to keep the project vibrant without me. In Tampere a few guys started a local Satokartta two years ago I think, their policy is different, and anyone can add data.2 Are you happy with the project? Yes, this has been important to me and it feels very much my own, I'm proud of it. Would you change anything? Well, Google Maps isn't the best platform for the map, but I'm not technical enough to develop that side of the project much further. Maybe taking Espoo and Vantaa to the mapped area is too much for my capacities alone. I need professional support. Was the project as you expected or did you encounter anything unexpected? I didn't expect that much. I just wanted to take a bike ride with my friends and kept collecting sites as a result. I've had encounters with urban foragers, old ladies mostly, and I had nice chats with them. I didn't expect publicity on such a scale, I enjoyed it though. Is the project scalable? Definitely. There are now local fruit maps in at least two other cities in Finland, Tampere and Turku.

2  See


What are your future plans? Well, I will try to cover Espoo and Vantaa a little bit over next August. I will offer Urban Foraging Ride to the new town where I’m moving to.

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? Since 2009 more than ten foraging rides, with nine to thirty-two participants each from over fifteen nationalities, aged from two to about seventy years old. The webpage has got hundreds of thousands of visitors, during the most popular day over 20 000 people saw the map. What are the key outcomes and impacts and for whom? Urban foraging has become much more acThe project has increased the cepted, visible and popular in recent years. People now know that they are allowed to demand for an urban harvest pick public fruits and berries in the city and and raised questions of the that they are safe to eat after washing them. need to increase the supply The project has increased the demand for an urban harvest and raised questions of the need to increase the supply. There have now been a couple of projects to plant new fruit trees on public land. Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? Yes and no.

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned? It is always quite easy to start and create something, but maintenance can become boring when it starts to become a repetitive routine. I haven't encountered many problems. Some people protested, arguing we shouldn't forage in urban environments. I have successfully convinced people that it is safe and legal to eat and pick city harvests, based on careful research with officials from the Ministry of the Environment and the Environmental Office of Helsinki. What can be given as advice for the readers? The internet, free information and open engagement. Google Maps is easy. Maybe, a small collective is better than individual work, but I'd recommend keeping the administration of such a map in the hands of just a few people. Some have opened it up to everyone to fill in sites, but the resulting quality is often poor. Media helps to make a project known, of course, but use it wisely.


Screenshot from the website of OpenWear.

Openwear collaborative clothing is a web-based platform for joint fashion creation, networking and interaction. It is an online community where values, knowledge and practice about sustainable and open fashion design are shared among the members. It promotes the collaboration between local business, educational institutes and independent fashion designers and makers to work towards a new vision of fashion, based on micro-communities and sustainability. Zoe Romano is currently working on Digital Strategy & Wearables at Arduino. She co-founded and, an initiative for the diffusion of open design and digital fabrication in Italy. She’s been into media activism and political visual art for the past 10 years, working on precarious employmen, social production, material and immaterial labour in creative and service industries.

Case Study

OPENWEAR collaborative clothing by Zoe Romano

Purpose/aim of the project: Openwear's aim, in short, was to optimize the ability of small producers to compete in the marketplace through collaboration, based on common-based resources and networking. Names of people/organisations involved: Founder of the project: Zoe Romano; Project Leader: Poper1 with Ethical Economy,2 Università degli Studi di Milano,3 Copenhagen Business School4 and University of Ljubljana.5 Participants contributing to the first collaborative collection: Studio I-GLE,6 David Luxembourg,7 Serpica Naro,8 OLoop,9 Open Source Pants,10 Daniela Pais,11 Pamoyo,12 and Jure Purgaj.13 Key stakeholders: Anyone interested in exploring an alternative model for fashion production such as fashion designers, students, researchers, and universities. Geographic location: European Union (EU). Supported by: Life Long Learning Programme of the EU Commission. Start date/Finish date: September 2009 until September 2012. Website or other online resource: Interview of participants: Other videos:

1 2  Ethical Economy has created the world’s only ethical price index. More: 3 4 5 6

7  8  9  10  11  12  13


BEGINNING What triggered the project? We were exploring an alternative fashion system based on values like collaboration, open source, community, the commons and distributed manufacturing. What was your motivation? We took inspiration from projects in other sectors already working on models based on the above values and tried to bring them into fashion production. I was already in touch with Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation and collecting a series of case studies on p2p production.14 We wanted to experiment something similar in another sector. Are there similar projects and did these stimulate you and are you linked to them in any way? Many of the ideas at the core of the project came from the experimentations I did with the Italian collectives I co-founded in 2005 called Serpica Naro. How did the idea evolve? The idea was conceived within Serpica Naro collective, operatingsince 2006. We wanted to help stimulate a conversation around the fact that millions of Italy’s young people now work for years without proper pay, and to find ways to confront the situation. As we studied the fashion system further, we came to realize that it is characterized by an increasing polarization: on the one hand big luxury brands; on the other fast fashion. The luxury brands accumulate wealth by exploiting the creative, production, and sales segments. We wanted to develop an alternative scheme. We began with the concept of intellectual property. Realizing that there were no examples of liberated trademarks, we worked with lawyers from Creative Commons to write a license for the use of the Serpica Naro brand. This would permit individuals, small producers, and small factories to contact us and use the brand on their clothing. With the help of Adam Arvidsson, a sociology professor at the University of Milan, I began to develop relationships with European companies and universities. We not only wanted to see if we could build a new brand that would be economically sustainable, but also to bring the ideas that the Serpica Naro experience had engendered into a more institutional setting. These efforts resulted in EDUfashion, a consortium of two companies and three universities: the Slovenian design studio Poper, Ethical Economy from the U.K.,



the University of Milan, the Copenhagen Business School, and the Department of Fashion and Textiles at University of Ljubljana. As we researched open design and peer-to-peer fashion, we began prototyping the community that was to become OpenWear in 2010.15 What are/were the key organisational aspects and organizational structures? Consortium composed by three universities and two companies: EDUFashion,16 Poper as Project Leader, Ethical Economy – UK, Università degli Studi di Milano – IT, Copenhagen Business School – DK,and the University of Ljubljana – SI. Target audience and network(s)? Indie fashion, makers, tailors, pattern makers, and students.

ACTING & DOING What are or were the key activities? Creating a collaborative collection and maintaining an online platform to share the codes of a series of collaborative collection. All the members of the community could download, manufacture, and sell garments from the collection using the Openwear brand together with their own brand. What are or were the key approach & methods? The general idea of the project was to support the development of a new model of fashion production based on local micro businesses with short supply chains networked with a local and internasupport the development of a tional environment of complementary new model of fashion production production hubs and educational institutions. based on local micro businesses We tried to reconcile two social with short supply chains “trends: a new ethical consumer demand and the growing relevance of a self-managed workforce focused on independent, socially engaged, critical and creative production. Additionally, knowledge sharing is stimulated and dissemination of skills and best practices enhanced with the online space where interested parties can introduce their work, share opinions, use the database and explore the e-book with relevant material that defines the new model framework.

15  Taken with permission from Zoe Romano. Source: Transcript from a conference keynote at Parsons School of Design, New York, to be published in the Journal of Design Strategies. 16


How did you get people participating? Invitation, word of mouth, events, and through social networks. What are/were essential for practical matters? • The creation of an online public space where small producers and students can present their profiles and work activities on ethical fashion production and knowledge creation, as well as discuss best practices and find common solutions for shared problems. • An online database for resources and e-books17 that define the new model framework: relevant materials at one place for the members who want to deepen their knowledge on new forms of work and production in fashion and creative industry. • Collaborative clothing collection: freely downloadable, replicable, customizable and sellable because licensed under Openwear open source brand.18 Helps people who want to sell or share their designs to brand their products without putting too much effort and budget into advertising. • Creation of an open brand identity: this helps constructing a self-representation for our target groups (micro producers, independent fashion workers, creative industries related to ethical fashion, fashion graduates) and public recognition.

First Collaborative Collection licensed under Openwear open source brand.

17 18


Media use and efficacy? The communication of this new model of production and dissemination of its practices is a complex issue. That's why we decided to build an open brand, as an ethos, inscribed in the products affected. To varying degrees, the identities and social relations arise around its use. The usual goal of contemporary brand management is to ensure that this particular ethos is reproduced in An open brand is consumers' everyday interactions with and around a brand that recognizes branded products. An open brand though, is a brand that recognizes the productive role of the productive role of customer co-production, encustomer co-production gages in strategies that aim at redistributing the value produced, and seeks organizational solutions that give co-producing consumers a say in determining the overall governance of the brand. To start disseminating ideas and involving experts as well as an audience in a virtual conversation we opened up a blog to give visibility to the work in progress. We created a Facebook and Twitter profile to disseminate the initial content. To implement the project plan and start involving stakeholders we organized presentations and open informal debates in educational institutions but also in local creative hubs around Europe. What are/were the outcomes reference target audience? The full report of the Openwear project is available online.19 The EDUfashion project delivered four participant outcomes based on collaborative work (Openwear knowledge portal, Openwear brand, electronic archives, research on labour market and working conditions in fashion) and two deliverable outcomes (EDUfashion website, Openwear collaborative collection of garments, Brand manual booklet, e-book). Other outputs are research (workshops) or dissemination (publications) tools. All outputs are connected with one another. ‘Openwear knowledge portal had 288 subscribers at the end of the EDUfashion project’s European financial scheme. There have been 982 monthly active users on Openwear’s Facebook account, 1,076 likes (and growing)’.20 What are/were the impacts - target audience and wider? With EDUFashion we managed to bring together a team of complementary partners. The process of confronting these different views, cultures and socio-economic contexts was of great value for the project and ensured that different perspectives were brought into the main tasks. Each partner was able to promote the project outcomes in its country through national channels but there were over 980 active

19  See 20  This text is taken with permission from Zoe Romano. Source: documents/erasmus/multilateral_actions_2009/502439-llp-1-2009-1-si-erasmus-ecue-edufashion_network.pdf


users each month. We also abroad in other European countries produced an open source manual on how to create an open brand.21 Even though the majority of the research has been based on secondary data analysis, the emergence of the implicit knowledge in daily communication and international meetings has been of a great help. This is particularly true in the understanding of the dichotomy between DIY (do it yourself), ingénue, grassroots design and institutional design. Our work has benefited of the national and international networks of the partners, with a great add value in terms of interdisciplinary and cross-pollination. ‘For example local network of small designers, micro entrepreneurs and crafters from Milan understood that problems and opportunities for precarious and independent workers were not a local specificity but that they could be considered and managed at a European level’.22

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is/was the project sustained? The project was financed by Life Long Learning Program of EU Commission. It had a plan to become self-sustaining but two years of activity were not enough to reach sustainability. What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? We mainly used human capital, social capital and financial capital. Are you happy with the project? Would you change anything? Yes and no. I'm happy we had the chance to experiment new concepts and ideas but probably we were too pioneering for the prevalent designers, the market and consumer mindset. We realised only later that we could not activate a fully collaborative process with online sharing tools for patterns and most of the professionals involved kept working on paper patterns instead of digital ones. We realised, for example, that people with a fashion background lacked two main approaches: • The use of digital processes in their work, because the way fashion is taught in school and university is still mostly based on analogue processes. • The idea that collaboration and sharing is a value to be nurtured because it brings more value in the long run.

21 22  This text was taken with permission from Zoe Romano. Source: Vodeb, O., 2009. EDUFashion. A collaborative platform for ethical fashion, new attitudes and continuous education. Final Report. p.13. Available at http://eacea.


Was the project as you expected or did you encounter anything unexpected? I realised that the fashion sector, even if it works on low levels of intellectual property protection (i.e. patterns are not copyright protected), is based on a culture of secrecy and hiding. This is the worst enemy of collaboration and openness. Is the project scalable? Yes. The core ideas of the project are still valuable and could be applied again in another project and with the knowledge of the difficulties encountered.

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? More than 400 people were involved in the community around Europe. We created a collaborative collection, an e-book exploring the concepts and some key findings. What capacity did you build? How did you change people’s lives? Many people were inspired by the Openwear approach and became more confident in exploring new business models for their activity of independent fashion making. Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? Yes. We wanted to experiment on some core concepts and we had the time and resources to do it and also understood what could be improved and how was the reaction of a wider audience to this new approach.

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned? Even if things did not go 100% as planned, doing things for real, enables experiences that are not possible otherwise. It's totally different when you speculate on some processes and frameworks compared to when you can actually stage them on a real project like Openwear. What can be given as advice for the readers? Make your idea or project goal as simple as possible and engage in making it successful. Then, in a second phase, expand its aims and make it more complicated.

Fernando Lusitano - The seeds of the past hybridise with the seeds of the present. Share seeds. Seed the future.



Making The act of bringing a form, process, service or experience to life, while realising individual and/or collective creative human potential and capital.


Cindy Kohtala is a doctoral researcher in Aalto University, Department of Design, where she is examining the environmental issues in the maker movement and how they are addressed in Fab Labs. She teaches Design-for-Sustainability, Product-Service System design and Sustainable Consumption and Production. She is also a longtime writer, urban activist and hobbyist maker.




Digital fabrication technologies such as laser cutters, milling machines and threedimensional (3D) printers are increasingly available to citizens, especially in devoted spaces known as fab labs, hackerspaces and makerspaces. They are the low-cost equivalent of industrial prototyping equipment and enable ‘making’ and ‘fabbing’ activities1 where hobbyists, professionals, inventors and the curious can experiment with and realise their own ideas. There are many different types of makers and maker communities today, each drawn together by different motivations, missions and even manifestos. This dialogue departs from where Jane Jacobs left off in Systems of Survival and The Nature of Economies,2 bringing the various maker characters to the same table to discuss the present and future of making.

Raissa’s Summons As Raissa had extended the invitation, she made sure she was first to arrive in the kitchen at the co-working space. She was setting out coffee mugs when Grosvenor arrived, with Harriet in his wake. Hugh entered with a broad smile, tipping his hat at the others; Fernanda came in at that moment and imitating Hugh’s gesture, causing them all to laugh. They all shook hands smiling and then sat down at the table, looking at Raissa expectantly. When all the coffee had been poured, Raissa started: “I know you’re wondering why I called you here today; there is something I want to discuss with you all.” She

1  Editors' note: See and 2  Jacobs, J., 1992. Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics. London: Hodder & Stoughton; and Jacobs, J., 2000. The Nature of Economies. New York: The Modern Library.


picked up the envelope that was on the table and drew out four sheets of paper. “Armbruster sent this to me last week. He said it was an assignment from Jane.” Hugh’s eyebrows rose; Fernanda looked puzzled. Raissa set one of the sheets on the table and the group bent over to examine it. “So the questions Armbruster wanted us to discuss are about systems of organisation and sanctioned behaviour. We decided together that you four represent the right range of viewpoints.” She consulted her notebook. “In other words, what precepts govern our behaviours and what do we reward? What are your definitions of success? Why do you pursue what you do, and why do you devalue other actions? That would mean your various communities – you and your hackerspace, Hugh, for instance.” On the sheet of paper was a chart: The Commerce Moral Syndrome

The Guardian Moral Syndrome

*  Shun force

*  Shun trading

*  Come to voluntary agreements

*  Exert prowess

*  Be honest

*  Be loyal

*  Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens

*  Be exclusive

*  Compete

*  Take vengeance

*  Respect contracts

*  Respect hierarchy

“What does the word ‘syndrome’ mean here?” asked Harriet. “Jane says it means ‘things that run together’. So these are like symptoms that characterise a condition. And these two syndromes are the way we operate as humanity: we either trade things, as in commerce, or we take them and then need to protect them, as guardians,” explained Raissa. “Well, I think hackers are more traders than takers, but I’m a bit allergic to the word ‘commerce’,” Hugh began. “Still, we collaborate more than we respect any hierarchy.3” “But you still have some kind of hierarchy in hacking – it’s just based on competence or experience or time put in rather than on any traditional roles or ideas of status,” Fernanda offered. “At least that’s how it is in my makerspace.” “And you certainly don’t shun trading in your space!” Harriet exclaimed. Fernanda looked at her quickly. “What do you mean?” “I thought makerspaces were supposed to be free and open and there to provide access to technologies to everyone. Yet you make good business from selling services and holding workshops, so everyone learns how to use a laser cutter and is no longer interested in actually doing anything with their hands,” Harriet said, rather defensively. She straightened her shoulders

3  For further reading see: Powell, W. W., 1990. Neither market nor hierarchy: Network forms of organization. Research in Organizational Behavior 12, pp.295-336. Available at:


and continued: “And then everyone prints out plastic Yodas and Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) press-fit boxes and all the waste and off-cuts just go straight to landfill – along with those Yodas and boxes that no one actually needs. And as soon as the next version of the technology comes along, you ditch it and replace it with the newest and shiniest...” “You have a point, Harriet,” Hugh intercepted her flow of words with his hand, “but don’t forget that learning how to use the equipment is a valuable learning experience in and of itself. It can teach us not only about how mass-produced products are made, but also how to repair It can teach us not only them. And a 3D printer in a hackerspace, about how mass-produced ok, it is of limited use, but it’s really useful to know how to make one.” “But how many products are made, but makerspaces in the future will actually stick also how to repair them to those Do-It-Yourself (DIY) self-assembly machines? The more they evolve, the more complicated they become, but they also become easier and easier to use. They become just like the closed boxes personal computers are today – easy to use but impossible to control. And then there is no more learning of any kind, not to mention any kind of traditional making,” Harriet countered. Fernanda raised her hand in protest: “I’m all for learning craft skills, and we certainly have enough hand tools and workshops on crafts in our makerspace, but some of that is just becoming less relevant in the twenty-first century. Why should I handcraft a plywood box with bad-fitting joints when I can print out a press-fit one that doesn’t even need any glue? And especially, why should we protect occupations that are clearly obsolete? You know, we used to have people whose only job was to go out to the lakes and cut ice and bring it into the cities and sell it. We don’t have those jobs anymore. Should we preserve ice-cutting just for the sake of tradition?” Harriet shook her head. “Maybe we should think a lot more about what is worth preserving and what traditions are worth sustaining. Maybe people need to think a little longer about what they’re fabricating before they just press the button. I’ve been thinking a lot about 3D printers, because they’ve been so much in the news lately. And it’s quite interesting how this idea of the 3D printer has been sold to us.” She took a sip of coffee. Grosvenor took advantage of the break in the conversation: “What do you mean?” “It’s like we’re being sold the idea that we weren’t able to do anything before 3D printers came along. Their slogan should be, 3D printers: MAKING MAKERS.” Harriet gestured in the air as if a big banner was hanging there in the air over their heads. “And people have such cultural amnesia, thinking that this is such a revolution and we’ve never seen this kind of transition before. Back in the 1950s, for example, electric power tools were only sold to industry or to workshops and craftsmen. They were high quality and durable, perfect for professionals, but they were only sold to these people. So the tool brands started to think about how they could sell more. They started to develop multi-functional tools, additional power


units, components and widgets, and all those new tools were meant for ordinary people because they were quite cheap. The other ones were quite expensive because they had longevity. But to sell to ordinary people the companies had to sell the idea of you being a craftsman even if you weren’t. You could be equal to professional craftspeople by having this tool. And this is the same idea that is being sold to us now: you can be a maker by having this 3D printer.” Harriet grabbed the sheet of paper. “So at least in terms of ethical behaviour and responsible consumption and preserving valuable skills, I’d definitely promote ‘Respect hierarchy’ and reject ‘Compete’. ‘Be exclusive’ if it means we can preserve endangered skills. What’s going to happen when we see the next energy crisis? All those fabrication tools are going to be silent and no one will remember how to use a hammer.” She sat back in her chair. “Hmm,” Fernanda said quietly, “I don’t really know about that. Some stuff coming out of the Maker movement is undeniably crappy, but we are also seeing some excellent ideas that just couldn’t have emerged earlier because of hierarchies4 and the silos separating engineer and scientist and craftsman.” Grosvenor snorted: “Oh, yes, excellent stuff like DIY pharmacology. That’s really safe. I would also go for hierarchy4 and being exclusive if it also means preserving natural resources, to add to what Harriet was saying.” “I’m surprised, Grosvenor,” said Hugh, after a somewhat awkward pause. “I’d have thought that you guerrilla gardeners and open source ecology crowd would rather promote contracts and agreements rather than capitulating to forms of hierarchy that are, let’s be frank, completely obsolete in this day and age. I mean, aren’t you actually breaking city rules rather than being loyal to them? Shouldn’t we have globally binding carbon cap agreements rather than some flimsy reliance on ideas of honour and loyalty?” Before Grosvenor could answer, Raissa raised her hand. “I think this could be a good point at which to introduce the next set of precepts.” She put another sheet of paper on top of the first. This time the chart was expanded:


The Commerce Moral Syndrome

The Guardian Moral Syndrome

*  Shun force

*  Shun trading

*  Come to voluntary agreements

*  Exert prowess

*  Be honest

*  Be loyal

*  Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens

*  Be exclusive

* Compete

*  Take vengeance

*  Respect contracts

*  Respect hierarchy

*  Use initiative and enterprise

*  Deceive for the sake of the task

*  Be open to inventiveness and novelty

*  Be obedient and disciplined

*  Be efficient

*  Treasure honour

*  Promote comfort and convenience

*  Show fortitude

*  Dissent for the sake of the task

*  Adhere to tradition

“Well, this gets more interesting,” said Hugh, leaning forward and putting his finger on the left side of the chart. “I’d definitely agree that fabbing and hacking is all about inventiveness and novelty...” “Not to mention initiative and enterprise,” Fernanda interrupted. “...But being efficient? That’s the last thing that’s on a maker’s mind. Promote comfort and convenience?” Hugh laughed. “Have you actually visited my hackerspace or tried to use any of my inventions lately?” he said dramatically. Grosvenor smiled, and then asked Raissa, “What does dissenting for the sake of the task mean here?” “Jane was referring to how commercial life can improve things or develop completely new things: dissenting from the way things were previously done, whether this is in production or distribution or whatever,” she explained. “And deceive?” pursued Harriet. “Well, it helps, for one, to exert prowess: to both have power and use it effectively.” Raissa checked her notebook. “It comes down to us from our previous existence as hunters – the need to deceive in order to secure the prey, the cheese in the mousetrap. For survival, hunters need to understand the end goal and commit to achieving it, so does the military, and that’s why tradition, obedience and hierarchy are so important to guardians.” Grosvenor frowned. “I’m not sure my network of growers fits in either of these categories. I mean, I was talking earlier about the importance of guardians and the need to protect natural resources and the public commons, but these precepts don’t fit what we’re actually doing.” “Go on,” Raissa nodded. “Well, as you know, we work a lot with developing urban agriculture and gaining a better understanding of our relationships with the natural ecosystems. Fernanda’s fab lab is a perfect place to play with prototypes of stuff we need that we just can’t find in the normal marketplace. And it’s been great for learning stuff, as Hugh said. But it took a long time before we even knew what we were doing and could actually achieve things. Once we recognised the pattern, how we could best work together, we could identify the barriers and opportunities of working as a self-organised group. And we knew our skills, what each person was good at.” “So not actually a hierarchy,” Hugh suggested. “That’s right. In fact, because there is no hierarchy, if something doesn’t get done there is no one to blame,” answered Grosvenor. “‘Get done’, in terms of what? What goals do you have and how do you decide on them?” asked Fernanda. “We tend to pick an idea from society that we would like to learn about,” Grosvenor spoke slowly, examining the chart as he spoke. “We do research, but because we are not trained in those particular fields, for example, biology, then we go through sometimes a long research process to learn what we need to learn. Or we might need to learn how to weld. Or even act! So then – for example, with beekeeping – we come to understand what we already know and what we need to learn, we know our network, so we know what skills

4  Half of what she says is what a real Helsinki maker actually said; his point was that makers are ignoring the previous restrictions on what professions were doing and were ‘allowed’ to do. (And other makers would add that people of different backgrounds mix in a Fab Lab, and that creates new ideas/innovations.) I would call that mix of modes, as Bauwens does, a ‘heterarchy’ rather than a hierarchy.


we already have. Then you can pick out the jobs that you can do or want to do, and, as I said, if something is left out there is no one to blame.” Fernanda appeared sceptical: “I know exactly what you mean, but it’s a really hard way to work and it can actually end up being really exclusive because there is such a high threshold.” “What do you mean?” asked Raissa. “I mean, people from ‘normal’ life are so used to company hierarchies and meetings and how decisions are made – you stick them in that kind of Bar Camp or unconference style meeting, and they’re totally lost. It is meant to be open and accessible and democratic, but it actually scares some people away. Even in the fab lab: because it isn’t a normal print shop where you walk in and pay for a service, people just don’t get that you’re supposed to do your stuff yourself, that’s the whole idea. If they want to learn something, they want to be given their role and the instructions. They don’t want to self-select, not to mention continuously self-organise. Hence the high thresholds,” Fernanda concluded. “Yeah, there are a lot of growing pains,” Grosvenor admitted. “We did that energy harvesting from waste project a couple of months ago; afterwards half the participants said it was a nice week, but the way we got there was total chaos. Some participants said, ‘Please don’t do it again’. The other half of the group said, on the contrary, ‘Look at what we achieved. We managed to get everything we wanted’. So I think we’re getting better at chaos.” Hugh nodded: “It’s a critical time – we’re moving from an industrial era to a peer-to-peer era. We need to learn how to operate together.” “Especially in an environmentally responsible way, not just socially conscious,” Grosvenor added. “Everyone is so focused on the information commons – they totally neglect the public commons.” Raissa looked around the group to see if anyone had anything further to say. She pulled out the third sheet of paper from the envelope. “This is now the whole chart,” she said.


The Commerce Moral Syndrome

The Guardian Moral Syndrome

*  Shun force

*  Shun trading

*  Come to voluntary agreements

*  Exert prowess

*  Be honest

*  Be loyal

*  Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens

*  Be exclusive

* Compete

*  Take vengeance

*  Respect contracts

*  Respect hierarchy

*  Use initiative and enterprise

*  Deceive for the sake of the task

*  Be open to inventiveness and novelty

*  Be obedient and disciplined

*  Be efficient

*  Treasure honour

*  Promote comfort and convenience

*  Show fortitude

*  Dissent for the sake of the task

*  Adhere to tradition

*  Invest for productive purposes

*  Dispense largesse

*  Be industrious

*  Make rich use of leisure

*  Be thrifty

*  Be ostentatious

*  Be optimistic

*  Be fatalistic

“Now I’m confused again,” Hugh said. “As a society I don’t think we should operate according to what looks like clear consumerist, profit-led capitalism,” pointing to the left, “but neither am I attracted to what looks like Versailles on the right.” Raissa nodded: “Yes, remember that Jane meant these It’s a critical time – we’re as the characteristics associated with the system moving from an industrial of commercial life on the one hand, to support daily needs, and the system set up around terera to a peer-to-peer era. ritorial responsibilities, on the other, to combat We need to learn how to corruption and enemies. What is a virtue on one operate together. side becomes a vice on the other, so if you’re operating in a particular syndrome some consistency is warranted – and rewarded. A mix can result in a confused morality, what she calls ‘monstrous hybrids’, such as organised crime or when governments try to operate like private corporations.” Fernanda interrupted her: “I have to disagree a little with Hugh. Being industrious and thrifty and inventive – and profit-minded – is the only way makerspaces are going to survive. You can have your lofty ideals, but ideals don’t pay the rent. I don’t see the problem people have with making money in the Maker movement – what is so wrong with commercialising it? Why shouldn’t we brand it and commoditise it so that it really can be open access – get rid of those high thresholds I was talking about earlier? Make the equipment easier to use so that – really – anybody can use it, even my granny? So what if the equipment producer is a big multinational. Wouldn’t distributed production be a better economic model than mass production? More empowering, and maybe even more environmentally beneficial, Grosvenor?” she challenged. Grosvenor looked like he was trying to control an outburst. “Distributing and democratising is not the same thing as sheer profiteering! I thought fab labs were all about open source. The more the Maker movement is exploited by those big corporations, the more proprietary the equipment is going to be – and we’re going to end up in the same mess we are now with mass production supply chains!” He took a breath, and then looked at Raissa. “Surely there are other ways. Aren’t there other hybrids that are not monstrous?” “Well, there are examples of commercial-guardian symbiosis that can escape mutual corruption, cooperative lending systems, for one, but Armbruster and I agree that we just don’t understand them well enough yet, and there are so few examples existing to learn from,” Raissa conceded. “But because this is a good point in the discussion, and also because we are running out of time, I’d like you to have the final discussion based on this.” She pulled the final sheet from the envelope:




*  Shun force

*  Shun trading

*  Come to voluntary

*  Exert prowess


*  Be loyal

*  Be honest

*  Be exclusive

*  Collaborate easily with

*  Take vengeance

strangers and aliens

*  Respect hierarchy

*  Compete

*  Deceive for the sake

*  Respect contracts

of the task

*  Use initiative and enterprise

*  Be obedient and

*  Be open to inventiveness


and novelty

*  Treasure honour

*  Be efficient

*  Show fortitude

*  Promote comfort and

*  Adhere to tradition


*  Dispense largesse

*  Dissent for the sake

*  Make rich use of leisure

of the task

*  Be ostentatious

*  Invest for productive

*  Be fatalistic


purposes *  Be industrious *  Be thrifty *  Be optimistic

Fernanda sat forward and then hesitated, but the others nodded: “For one thing, the speed of markets is much better for today’s society than the pondering, excruciatingly slow pace of government decision-making. If something happens, you need to react and it’s better to react fast. Networks are much more resilient and agile.” “What about trust?” asked Harriet, who had been strangely quiet. “Don’t you need trust in both syndromes?” Grosvenor pointed out. “Or in all three types of organisation?” “What is virtuous behaviour when you are operating in a network?” Raissa prodded. “I think in networks you are shunning self-interest,” Harriet offered. The others nodded. “You want to share and collaborate, not compete,” she continued. “So you don’t esteem the worth of contracts, you work to build your reputation instead,” Hugh added. “You work in an open source project and you try to earn respect and polish your reputation in that network by contributing high quality work. Property rights are not important, and sanctions are normative, not legal, so contracts are rather irrelevant.” Harriet wrinkled her brow: “So you mean quality is ensured through reputation maintenance? For artisans, that is also true, but it’s more through discipline, and honour, satisfying the idea of what a guild would judge as quality. If everyone can be a designer, or maker, or artisan, like in a maker network, then I still think quality goes out the window.”


“But it’s as much about the means as well as the end, in sustainability networks, anyway,” countered Grosvenor. “If you’re working in open source ecology projects, the end goal is always moving and you always have to be in learning mode. Quality of the solution is how well it fits your resources at that moment and how well it actually accomplishes what you were hoping for.” “That’s why efficiency isn’t a relevant value for a network,” Fernanda pointed out. Hugh jumped in: “Maybe it should read, ‘Be experimental’ instead of ‘Be efficient’.” “Or ‘Be reliable’?” Harriet said. Grosvenor smiled. “Invest in strengthening ties,” he said. “Trade know-how,” Fernanda offered. “Donate for the sake of the task,” Hugh grinned. Raissa closed her notebook and the group rose to their feet, taking their cups to the sink. “If you are so inclined, we could continue these discussions on this topic,” she said, as Hugh reached for her cup and washed it. Everyone nodded, then looked at each other, embraced and parted ways until the next meeting. The characters in this fictional dialogue represent various perspectives in today’s Maker Movement, from fabbers – enthusiasts of digital fabrication and especially its technical, commercial and entrepreneurial opportunities, to hackers and fixers promoting a better understanding of mass produced products as well as sheer invention, to craftspeople and artisans, to the growers who seek to exploit digital fabrication but in more ecologically oriented urban practices. Several passages are actual quotes spoken by real makers in the European (mostly Helsinki) maker scene. Raissa is the researcher who brought them together, and on her behalf I thank all the makers, my research subjects, for allowing me to observe and participate in this fascinating post-industrial transition.


Anja-Lisa Hirscher is a designer and activist with a background in graphics and illustration. She was born in the southern German Allgäu, loves the great outdoors, horse riding and the mountains. She graduated from the MA programme Creative Sustainability at Aalto University, Finland, and is now engaged with her PhD on exploring the potential of fashion activism and alternative economies within the fashion system. Besides that, she is working as a freelance designer and organiser of the project Make{able} – participatory clothing design workshops to encourage sustainable fashion consumption.



The Joyful Experiences of Making Together by Anja-Lisa Hirscher

There is an inherent pleasure in making … the sheer enjoyment of making something exist that didn't exist before, of using one’s own agency, dexterity, feelings and judgment to mould, form, touch, hold and craft physical materials, apart from anticipating the fact of its eventual beauty, uniqueness or usefulness. E. Dissanaykae1

This essay is about the potential of joyful making, exploring, learning and creating together to engage and activate users to rethink their consumption patterns, encourage their agency and create greater well-being by consuming less. It is inspired by a project I founded in spring 2012: Make{able}-Valuable clothes designed together.2 The project developed over the span of one and a half years into an open collaboration between different designers, empowering citizens on how to construct garments. Make{able} is a practice and model based upon learning and participation in workshops to enable stronger user-involvement in the design process. The project uses participatory design workshops and half-way garments3 as ‘tools’ to facilitate and encourage consumer involvement. Participatory design allows a relocation of the roles between designer and consumer through collaborative making. It investigates opportunities to create new product value through open and participatory clothing design and fosters new ways of learning, knowing and gaining awareness.4 Make{able} emerged from the idea of creating a stronger person-product attachment through making an object (in this case a garment). According to researcher Ruth Mugge, the greatest personproduct attachment can be achieved through the actual making process.5

1  Dissanaykae E. cited in Gauntlett, D., 2011. Making is Connecting – The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity Press. p.60. 2  Make{able}, 3  A half-way garment is intentionally unfinished by the designer and thus leaves an open space for the end user to customise and finalise. 4  More information related to this idea can be found e.g. in Fletcher, K. & Grose L., 2012. Fashion & Sustainability – Design for Change. Laurence King Publishing: London, and Fuad-Luke, A., 2009. Design Activism. London: Earthscan 5  Mugge, R., 2007. Product attachment. Ph.D., Delft University of Technology.


So far, twelve workshops have been run by Make{able} in different locations in the greater Helsinki area, with approximately 140 participants in total. Each workshop had around ten to fifteen participants. All agreed that they really enjoyed the workshops and the process of making. Through this project I am in the unique position to explore the role of the consumer, but also to analyse the processes from a design-perspective through interviews with the designers who help with the makNew relationships ing in the workshops. This project made clear to me between designer, wearer that among consumers, there is a strong interest and the garment can be in participating in the design and making process enabled through this as well as in learning practical skills and gaining a deeper understanding of the garment construcjoint making process tion. The discussions with participants brought to light that there is an emerging curiosity for the stories captured in the garments. Consumers are demanding more transparent, qualitative and ethical production processes – while others look to become a ‘do-it-yourself’ (DIY) maker. From the design perspective it was interesting to see that even sewing beginners were very enthusiastic and brave in creating and making once they got started. The designers also went through positive and enriching experiences when changing from the role of a designer to one of an adviser/facilitator when conceptualizing the outcomes with the final wearer. New relationships between designer, wearer and the garment can be enabled through this joint making process. The role of the designer changes, from only designing the product towards three main stages, before, during and after a participatory workshop. This point is well articulated in the quote below by Tjasa Avsec, one of Make{able}’s regular fashion designers: “Before the workshop you have to design simple products which can be sewn by total beginners in a few hours, but are still effective, appealing and interesting. That is the design part, which importantly affects the result of the workshop as it gives the framework and enables its success. During the workshop, your role changes from being a designer to being an adviser. You suggest the best possible way to make the customer’s idea come true, based on your designer’s and maker’s experiences. I think it is important to listen to the consumer and encourage their feeling of success. That is, they themselves designed and produced the product, you have only guided them on their way. After the workshop it seems it doesn’t matter who spends hours on brainstorming and designing the concept of the product and the basic shape; it is the customers' experience which matters. It is a contradicting observation, as on the other hand, the customers may value the designer’s work more by understanding the process.”

The designers felt they could learn from the users and gain a deeper understanding of how they perceive clothes and other products. Together, very unique and diverse results were created, which the designers could not have imagined before.


One of the designers pointed out that it really is all about “learning together�. In some way the designer becomes a student and a teacher/adviser at the same time, as new ways of designing and making are explored. This illustrates, that consumers and designers equally enjoy the experience of collaborative making. Therefore I question: Can these positive joint experiences of designers and users open up alternative modes of acquiring goods where consumers are more actively involved, at a slower pace, and with more personal attachment? And, if so, can these experiences influence other consumption habits in our everyday life?

Open exploring and learning generates joyful making To approach these questions, we first have to elaborate: What, in the first place, makes people join such workshops and invest time in making? How can we make people change form passive consumption to active participation?

Results from the Make{able} workshops with half-way tunic and half-way shorts. Š Anja-Lisa Hirscher.


Every act of consumption requires a certain degree of active participation. For example, when purchasing ready-made food, one has to at least heat it up in the microwave. So, how can we slowly guide people to more active participation without them feeling forced into a new way of acquiring products? I think that participatory design and open design have the ability to educate, inform and make processes transparent. However, to change the patterns of action towards increased sustainability, we need to address the factors which restrict people from participation. In the case of making a garment with Make{able} these restrictions were: time, skills and facilities.6 Are projects such as Make{able} able to trigger an actito change the patterns vation call in our daily routines? Would people be willof action towards ing to spend time and money in a making-experience? increased sustainability, What would this experience need to offer? In my opinwe need to address the ion, it needs to offer joyful enriching moments that factors which restrict illustrate alternatives to the passive mode of minimal involvement in production which characterises today’s people from participation consumerism. People need to feel comfortable in this environment in order to be encouraged to learn and become involved, without feeling obliged to. I imagine that a ‘smooth slide’ into a new behaviours and ways of enjoying a slower pace of making and enjoying goods can happen when encouraging people to gain new experiences. This is where design, designers, makers, activists, facilitators and other agents of change have the power to enable this soft push towards more active and aware citizens, with a variety of tools and methods. We received positive feedback about the facilitated making process, the assistance by the designers and the open atmosphere for learning and exploring together. These offer great potential to overcome any restrictions. Now we are able to give suggestions on how to guide people step-by-step towards joyful making experiences. It is for example very important to facilitate fun workshop processes and enable desirable outcomes. Furthermore, the workshop is a platform for social interaction – from helping each other with threading a sewing machine to joint design decision-making. The physical object being made enables them to discuss and connect with others more directly.7 It is great to observe how participants are encouraged by one another to become active and move from being a learner to being a teacher/ adviser/ designer themselves. The free and open workshop platform inspires the exchange of skills and knowledge through low involvement barriers, and offers the chance to learn through making and interacting with others. It provides a great environment for creative explorations where participants can express their ideas in a tangible outcome, supported by others.

6  Through interviews and questionnaires with the participants of Makeable workshops, the factors preventing consumers becoming involved in the making process were identified as: time, skills and facilities required. 7  Gauntlett, D., 2011. Making is Connecting – The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity Press. p.3.


Make{able} workshop, September 2012. © Anja-Lisa Hirscher.

I believe that this joyful making experience enables a vibrant creative energy and a positively experienced alternative which can create the basis for a change in the consumer mindset. When actively making an object, the individual has the chance to reflect on his or her thoughts and experiences, and manifest them into a tangible output.8 The experience is far more about the process than the final outcome. During the process, emotions such as ‘excitement and frustration, but most especially a feeling of joy’9 can be witnessed. The opportunity to create personal narratives within the objects is likely to strengthen the attachment and provide new solutions for reduced consumption.10 The entire emotional and learning experience will not only be captured in the garment, but might also trigger a new awareness towards consumption and its impacts on our daily life. It is difficult to distinguish what changes attitudes and behaviour as every individual responds to different triggers, but joyful experiences can be one of them.

Enabling, Experiencing, Learning, Knowing The current economic system is driven by a constant striving for economic growth. It is formed around a growing consumption which needs to be fed by the citizens.

8 Ibid. 9  Gauntlett, D., 2011. Making is Connecting – The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity Press. p.76. 10  See for example: Fuad-Luke, A. 2009. Design Activism. London: Earthscan; Mugge, R., 2007. Product attachment. PhD., Delft University of Technology.


In doing so they are forced into a rather passive consumer mindset. Products are designed in a way to make it easy for people to stay in a passive and ignorant position.11 This is a major problem for any aspects regarding sustainable behavior – what are potential approaches for tackling this passivity and unawareness? One possibility is to address and improve the individual’s knowledge and skill-set by enabling solutions which foster new forms of sustainable well-being. Sustainable well-being is a context-based well-being, which refers to the whole human life environment, such as physical and social interactions and the ‘possibility to act in this context’. 12 This could be facilitated by moving from a product-based well-being towards enabling solutions to satisfy human needs.13 This change however, requires certain capabilities of taking action as a wellaware individual, not a passive consumer. Amartya Sen expresses capability as a kind of freedom to have alternatives to choose from.14 Freedom of choice is important for a person’s quality of life and one's well-being. Citizens need to be enabled to regain practical skills and deeper knowledge about the products and processes which are embedded in a malfunctioning system of planned obsolescence15 and unnecessary over-consumption. There needs to be a motivating aspect or experience to change one's behaviour without forfeiting personal well-being and happiness. David Gauntlett describes the potential of enabling change and action through experienced joy and power while making. ‘The idea that a person should be enabled to ‘express their meaning in action’ has the feeling of rough reality, and movement; and the line which makes a particular link between joy and creativity (people feel joy, as opposed to mere pleasure, to the extent that their activities are creative) is warm, memorable, and powerful.’16

The question is: What can design contribute to make this learning process a joyful experience? How can we encourage new forms of well-being, moving away from a passive, convenience-driven consumer culture, towards more active participation and an aware citizen-culture? In the 1970s, in his book Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich talked about alternative libraries which would contain all kinds of ‘educational objects’. These libraries would

11  Vezzoli, C., Manzini, E., 2008. Design for Environmental Sustainability. London: Springer-Verlag. p.26. 12  Ibid., p.24. 13  Manzini, E. 2006. Design, ethics and sustainability. Guidelines for a transition phase. In: Design, Ethics and Humanism. See also, Cumulus Working Papers, Cumulus conference, Nantes, France, 15-17 June 2006. Helsinki: University of Art and Design Helsinki. pp.9-15. 14  Sen, A., 1999. Development as Freedom. Oxford University Press: UK. p.75. 15  Planned obsolescence: An artificial shortening of a products life-cycle to encourage faster replacement. See e.g.: Burns, B., 2010, ‘Re-evaluating Obsolescence and Planning for it.’ in Cooper, T. ed. 2010. Longer Lasting Products: Alternatives to the Throwaway Society, MPG Books Group: UK, pp.39-61. 16  Gauntlett, D., 2011, Making is Connecting – The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity Press. p.174.


offer information through so called ‘learning webs, that allow an active choice in what to learn and how to learn it instead of force-feeding the same knowledge to everyone.17 Illich highlighted ‘the loss of joyfulness in everyday experiences’ through such big standardized systems.18 So, how can we bring back the joyfulness in our everyday life? We need to reconceptualise learning as a part of our daily experience. To enable a real transformation of fashion consumption the population needs to gain new knowledge. Active communication and education ‘does not always manifest itself in traditional visual or two-dimensional forms […]’20 and also a learning process can often best be achieved outside of the standard classroom. New tools like prototypes, hands-on workshops, do-it-yourself/do-it-together (DIY/DIT) blogs and so on, are just a few opportunities for designers and other ‘agents of alternatives’ to facilitate a learning process. We can only reach a broader target audience if we look for alternative ways of building knowledge and skills, as different triggers appeal to different audiences. This implies that we need to offer different and new forms of learning and gaining knowledge. For example, knowledge which is built through experience by making something, like a piece of clothing, can be recognized as one of the ‘four ways of knowing’21 in the field of co-operative inquiry. These four ways of knowing are the following: 1) experiential, 2) presentational, 3) propositional and 4) practical. This strategy expresses how we perceive things through ‘extended epistemology’, epistemology meaning a theory of how you know, and extended because it reaches beyond the primarily theoretical knowledge of academia’.22 It is said that the greatest value is generated if they are congruent: ‘if our knowing is grounded in our experience, expressed through our stories and images, understood through theories which make sense to us, and expressed in worthwhile action in our lives’.23 The final level of practical knowing is expressed in the knowledge of how to do something, representing the acquisition of a skill or competence. These four ways of knowing can also be seen as a pathway to softly ‘slide’ people from a rather unaware passive mindset, towards greater knowledge and awareness. Therefore, we need to imagine and explore different methods and tools, to help people regain their capabilities or learn new ones, step-by-step. Illich also talks about ‘convivial tools’, which are those ‘that give each person who uses them the greatest opportunity to enrich the environment with the fruits of his or her vision. Industrial tools deny this possibility to those who use them and they allow their designers to determine the meaning and expectation of others’.24

17  Illich, I., 1971. Deschooling Society. Republished 2001. London: Marion Boyars. 18  Ivan Illich in Gauntlett, D. 2011: Making is Connecting – The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity Press. p. 166. 19  Fletcher, K., Grose, L., 2012. Fashion & Sustainability – Design for Change. Laurence King Publishing: London 20  ibid. p.158. 21  Reason, P., 1998, A participatory World. Resurgence & Ecologist. Issue 186, p.4. 22  Ibid., p.4 23  Ibid., p.4 24  Illich, I., 1973. Tools for Conviviality. Republished 2001, London: Marion Boyars, p.21.


What if designers foster an open process of designing to enrich everyday experiences through a joyful making experience with others? Isn’t it an exciting, maybe challenging opportunity to seek for innovative concepts to enable new joyful forms Assemble the BackPack 1.1) make a clean edge to all main pieces & the bottom using a for everyone? As mentioned before, designof learning, experiencing andby knowing zick-zack stich around them 2) create the upper ers tubeenjoyed and insertthe thecollaborative plastic stripes making experience as much as the other participants in the theback workshops. 3) make the straps for 4) attach straps on the back, on top of the bag (makes it stronger) 5) attach the straps with clips to the inside on the upper tube Part of the free downloadable Make{able} instructions: How to make a roll-top backpack,25

by Anja-Lisa Hirscher, licensed under Creative Commons.


3) 1cm

Tube for the plastic stripe: Fold the fabric twice on the top, sew it on the lower fold so you leave a tube of about 1cm to later insert the plastic stripe.

filling material

5) Attach the straps: Place them on the upper part of the where you attached the pocket. Then sew them by folding over 5 cm and sew a rectangle and an X as below.


fold to the middle

Make the straps for the back Take the 2 fabric pieces plus some filling, iron the first fold, then fold them to the middle and sew 2 seams. Fold a triangular ending (there should be no filling) sew it once across, then attach the leather part with an X as shown in step 5)

If you have an outer bag, seam it first and then attach it on the front with a straight stitch.


Iron a fold of 1cm

fold to the middle

Attach the clips: Place them on the upper part of your backpack, where the plastic tube ends. They need to face each other on the front of the backpack.

Making & Activating Making together can be seen as a tool to create knowledge, activate and raise awareness. The question is: Can we transfer this positive experience of active participation into other areas of our everyday life? I believe so, because by enabling users with more skills and a deeper product understanding, they gain the capability of well-informed decision-making, and have more independence from what is offered by the industry. Inevitably, this results in a greater freedom of choice and more awareness when it comes to making everyday decisions.26 As we create objects with our own skills, we are able to gain a new awareness about the influence we have on these objects, but also on our everyda.y life decisions. Therefore, ‘crafting can be reclamation of the power of life’27 Through the newly gained skills and knowledge, interaction with everyday objects and decisions can be changed as well. We, however, have to Making and sharing are work on reprogramming ourselves everyday a able to contribute to little bit towards taking more conscious decisions, experienced through making, sharing and learna feeling of well-being ing with others. Making and sharing are able to through connectedness contribute to a feeling of well-being through connectedness, and having an impact on the object. The object is created in the way that I as a maker choose it to be, I can manifest my knowledge, skills and vision into it. This experienced freedom through the capability of making an object, may enable us to take a step forward to gaining well-being by consuming less but experiencing more.

Conclusion Building an educated society where each individual is able to actively influence a subtle shift or emphasis in power structures by the application of their knowledge and skills needs to be developed step by step. With innovative concepts of individual and collective knowledge sharing by making – may it be a small project such as Make{able} – we can all aim to offer alternatives to the mainstream, and thus create new moments of awareness and learning through alternative channels. I am certain that through joyful experiences of joint learning and making, we can bring back a partly forgotten pleasure in creating things with our own hands, at our own speed and with the skills and knowledge we developed. These experiences hopefully nourish further changes in people’s mindset and behaviour. Therefore, I believe that from small projects we can learn and develop real viable alternatives for active citizens to learn and make changes happen together.

25  Download the full instructions here: 26  McCann A. cited in Gauntlett, D., 2011. Making is Connecting – The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity Press. p. 59. 27  Ibid., p.59.


Workshop action with Marcin Jakubowski © Sean Church.

Marcin Jakubowski founded Open Source Ecology, an open collaborative of engineers, producers, and builders developing the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) in 2003. He came to the United States from Poland as a child. He graduated with honours from Princeton University and earned his PhD in fusion physics from the University of Wisconsin. After receiving formal education, he found himself useless in solving wicked problems, and started the Factor e Farm (e as in the mathematical constant) in rural Missouri – which was to become the birthplace of the GVCS. The GVCS is a set of fifty most important machines that it takes for modern life to exist – everything from a tractor, to an oven, to a circuit maker. Marcin and his team are producing open source blueprints – so that anyone can build and maintain machines at a fraction of what it costs today. Interviewed by AFL.



Blueprint co-production for open economic development with Marcin Jakubowski, Open Source Ecology

Can you give an introduction of yourself, Open Source Ecology and the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) project? If we talk about the origin of the project, it was during my PhD studies when I was getting frustrated about the relevance of the work I was studying in relation to pressing world issues. The further I went the more removed I felt from those issues and the chance to address them. I couldn’t discuss things openly with other research groups. I felt that was a real hindrance to my ability to learn. That’s when the idea of open collaborative development instead of reinventing the wheel came about. So in the last year of my PhD, I started Open Source Ecology (OSE).1 It’s interesting that you said you weren’t able to discuss your work. The origins of the open source movement in the 1960s was about discussing things openly and building on the ideas of others. So, that was a fundamental mind change you had there, wasn’t it? It was. Always, I’d had the notion that science can do good things for people, but I felt that with the amazing technology, know-how and skills we have, there are still so many fundamental issues going on: pervasive issues such as poverty and war… Somehow it is not getting better. Does this explain something of your primary motivation, intention and greater purpose? The overall goal of OSE is to accelerate innovation by open collaboration. That is the promise of open development where we can learn how to collaborate and learn faster to solve fundamental issues faster than they are created. The general goal is getting the inefficiencies out of innovation and learning.

1  Open Source Ecology,


You use the term open development like sustainable development…? Not many people yet are talking about open development, as ‘open economic development’. It is an interesting juxtaposition of words; openness is about creating new relationships, new possibilities for synergy. Is this something you see in OSE and your main project, GVCS? That is absolutely critical. In fact, the central theme is how to develop a collaboration, a college of sorts, where groups of diverse disciplines such as artists, engineers and entrepreneurs come together to build upon perspectives that are synergistic. The trick is, how do can we encourage that kind of process work on a more replicable scale, because everyone goes about their work, in general, in a disciplinary way. We’re finding you get amazing results when you go to much more open collaborative processes. We call our methods ‘extreme production’, ‘extreme manufacturing’,2 and a new theme that is coming out, ‘extreme learning’. It is a concept coming up from some guys in China, in Tsinghua University. We just talked recently. How do you get a large number of students to work together across the disciplines? So, to me, that’s the next generation of learning, more effective learning and innovation. In a sense do you think we have to re-learn how to learn? I think so, yes, based on my own personal story with learning. I went through a traditional educational programme for my PhD. I feel that, especially with such a theoretical education, there was something missing, some inThe learning simply efficiency.3 Now I see how different groups can cross-fertilise and the importance of access to different knowledge tools, happens by diffusion software, computers and hardware. When you throw all that to the mix, the learning environment becomes much richer. So, I’m convinced personally that there are methods that we are not using in general in society that can really work well as we turn to more integrated systems, as opposed to focused disciplinary learning. Are you talking about inter-disciplinarity and mutual learning? I’m not familiar with the term mutual learning, but I imagine what it means is that we teach each other. In the way that we work, the group, I’m the facilitator of that, but all the people bring diverse skills and step up to teach others. The learning simply happens by diffusion. Just being in the environment of someone doing

2  Extreme manufacturing is an open source method of manufacturing where a large team designs, collaborates and builds modules together. See more here, 3  The inefficiency comes from the ‘hazing’ found at universities, i.e. you have to go through useless exercises of theoretical study just to prove to the institution that you can be ‘one of them’. But perhaps more importantly, ‘turf battles’ are the norm. Just about everyone is in their silo and does not collaborate with the greater community. How can someone understand how their discipline fits with the rest of the world if they are cut from the rest of it? This leads to providing the best answers to the wrong questions.


something else, using another tool, you can ask them to look over their shoulder. There is a subtle but passive diffusion, and you can’t but help absorb some of that. You talk about the ‘open source economy’.4 Have your ideas migrated since you started using this term or have they been consistent? Yes, I think there’s a constant evolution of that. When the project first started it wasn’t talking about the economy, because we didn’t have anything to build an economy with. Now, our products are becoming quite real and we talk seriously about setting up an enterprise and the possible models. Definitely, we’ve shifted to the ‘workshop model’, a revenue model where we teach, where we charge for intense learning, an immersive learning experience built around production, like the brick press. A client bought it and people paid us for a learning experience [to make it]. That is a model that can scale if people are hungry for this kind of immersive learning. There are social enterprise business model canvases5 these days. It might be good to open your model out. Are you gathering evidence about the idea of the open source economy? We have achieved a one-day Yes, indeed, absolutely. We have achieved a production model of the one-day production model of the brick press. That’s a pretty efficient way to do it using crowdbrick press - an efficient based collaborative design for the design-andway using crowd-based build process. We put in $5000 of materials, we collaborative design can sell that machine for $9000 and the nearest competitor costs about $52000. So, there’s a definite efficiency in terms of the cost. We are seeing some very encouraging results and are driving to optimise the processes further. Have you taken it beyond economic data of the production of the equipment and looked at how the machine works in a local economy or local community? We don’t have that track record yet, and we haven’t seen that yet because there is no case model to test, but once the machine is out fully, as we are working on it right now, we will get some data points on it. One thing we were talking about was how the machine can be used to build housing in Kansas City.

4  An open source economy is defined as an economy in which the development of goods and services happens via open collaboration between independent stakeholders on the global level. It is an economy where the rate of innovation across all sectors is significantly higher than the rate of innovation provided by proprietary research and development characteristic of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century. In short, the open source economy is efficient: it avoids competitive waste — thereby optimising not only production, but also distribution. See 5  The Business Model Canvas is a graphical diagram and tool to help generate the value proposition for customers and to see how the different elements of a business need to be put together to deliver this value to the customers and the business. See more at,


Let’s talk about the designing and making. What sort of conversations did you have around the choice of the 50 machines for GVCS? The choices were made simply by picking a list of sectors, and seeing how the various machines could be produced for food, housing and so forth, just picking things which have a billion dollar market or more and open sourcing them. As we learn we can re-evaluate and see if there are better answers to them. We are trying to do a set, not just a set of individual machines but interactions of them. We are trying to learn how they work together. We can learn and adjust accordingly. In a talk at Bioneers 2012, you mentioned that you’d tested 62 prototypes, that one CES brick press had been replicated (by James Slade in Austin, Texas) and you hoped for thirteen replications in 2012. Where are you now with the replicates in 2014? At the end of 2012 there were replicates in about five countries around the world, and since then there’s another one in Chile, but it hasn’t been explosive by any means. Some of the learning is telling us that in order to be potentially viably scalable we need take it product by product and take them to completion. That’s what we’re doing this year. So, we’re taking the tractor, brick press and Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) torch table to full release where we have absolutely exquisite information and documentation around that, the language diagnostic construction manuals and everything that you need to replicate; a package you can simply take to your local fabricator. Everything is there for you to pretty much build the machine with the local fabricator. Do you think it has been a barrier that there is still some tweaking and things to be done in terms of communicating the construction of these machines, or have you done some analysis on the barriers? No rigorous analysis, what we were just simply seeing was that the replications are not happening as we would like. Therefore, we are coming up with a 'viability check list' – from the language of diagnostic construction manuals to the exquisite blueprints, to the optimisation of the building methods you need to hold people themselves. You can produce the prints and say, OK just by the hand, hence the build it, or you can produce the same and radically reduce workshop model the time it takes to build that. And the other element we are finding out is you need to hold people by the hand, hence the workshop model. It is part of our viral replicability criteria.6 Can the workshops be virally replicated too, or do you need special facilities? Absolutely, people can do the workshops anywhere.

6  Viral replicability criteria are a set of rigorous conditions required for something to go viral. This could apply to a product, service, or creative work. For OSE it is the infrastructure that we create for replicating our machines on a global scale, but more interestingly it is about replicating entire regenerative communities on a global scale as the foundation for the next economy based on open sharing of know-how.


I contributed to an Open Design conference in Barcelona in 2012, and the thought going around my head then, as now, was: Do you think people actually want to spend time building these machines? Ha, ah. The answer is yes, if you make the process fun and efficient enough. That is what we are exploring. For example, with the brick press workshop, we didn’t actually achieve the one-day production run because we mixed a lot of education with it, but what I have seen is that people have great fun. They were extremely rewarded by the immersive learning and the final product at the end. I think this model can scale radically. So, yes, I think about that issue a lot, yes. It’s like asking yourself, What if the time taken for you to do this was taken down to a quantity that was previously unimaginable? Then the answer to me is, clearly, this will be adopted by people who say they don’t have the time because you don’t actually need so much time. I think the whole open design movement is struggling with this issue of time, and other issues. Maybe these communities of practice need to come together more to find a way forward. In this respect I see that there has been a development with GVCS from projects about machines to projects about houses. How did that come about? Well, when we talk about our machines we are not talking about the machines per se, but we are thinking about the machines as producing wealth. The house is a natural example of that. So, when we proposed this whole package (GVCS) it is as a universal constructor. We are also interested in the products of the machines themselves. So, the Microhouse is a prototype, of course. Would you consider collaborating with open source architects, for instance, with Architecture for Humanity, Project H, Rural Studio,7 or similar organisations? You have equipment that might help them realise some of their open source ambitions as architects and in the arena of affordability as well. Absolutely. What you are bringing up is that there are all these similar people doing work and we need to be connecting to them. Yes, I’m bringing them up because I’m moving towards questions about scaling up and you are part of a wider open source movement. Let me give you a little detail on that. What we’re migrating to is a programme where we are collaborating by asking these other players to work with us on simply organising a workshop, and that we share the revenue fifty:fifty, but organised around the production of some product. There are a lot of groups, such as Wikihouse open design housing.8 If we simply build on their work we can do better. A workshop, I think, would be a good format to do that.

7  See Architecture for Humanity,; Project H, and Rural Studio, 8  Wikihouse open design housing,


I agree. I think this is a very exciting area we will see developing within the whole open source and open design movements, this kind of cross-fertilisation. You are starting at a very important point, where the equipment is. Going on to the challenge of scaling up, we’re having a fertile debate in Europe about the question, what is social innovation? For example, in the Theoretical, Empirical and Policy foundations for building Social Innovation in Europe (TEPSIE) project,9 it seems that the public, private, not-for-profit (third/social) and informal sectors need to be come together to do social innovation. You are a social enterprise. Do you see yourself just collaborating with other social enterprises, or do you see it widening out? I definitely see it widening out — to as large and wide as collaboration as possible. Those are good ideas. I’d like to see those implemented more. Given the restrictions on resources most smaller organisations have, how do you see yourself rising to that challenge in the near future to be able to build strategically where you want to go? Right. For example, Wikipedia costs 30 million dollars to organise for people to collaborate for free. So there are some financial barriers. To me, the route is, what is the revenue model by which you sustain it? We are exploring the workshop model as a potentially scalable way to do this, where we, Imagine you combine collectively,are addressing the actual production. Imagthe educational sector ine you combine the educational sector with production with production and and manufacturing. Take those together and there you manufacturing have the workshop model. That’s the way we are trying to take it. Perhaps it needs an online discussion platform where these unusual suspects can come together to talk about workshop-based learning as a vehicle to look for potential synergies? What do you see in the next two to three years for OSE, open source economy and GVCS? What do you see as the emerging possibilities? For us, in particular, it’s about a radical increase in velocity to deliver a promise of unleashed innovation and to have the GVCS finished. And I’ve said this before, as early as 2011 when we got to the world stage with TED, I said, “Wow, we’re getting attention left and right, we’re going to finish this thing in a second”. That didn’t happen because what I missed was the amount of organisational complexity and protocols required to execute on that. We have much more experience now and we can make it real this time. So, I’m very optimistic, especially with the revenue model of the workshop coming in as a real force to help bootstrap fund this, so not only us, but others can do it. I don’t believe in foundations supporting this radical kind of increase. It’s going to come from operations being able to bootstrap fund



themselves. That’s my take on it. I’m kind of optimistic in the explosion of economic activity around open production models, over the next two years. But for the moment do you still need your regular crowdfunders, your fans, to produce regular income? That’s a minimal part of our support right now. We are running out of foundation funding but the real revenue will have to be from the workshop model and that’s what we are working on right now. Maybe there are some fresh conversations around on what it means to educate ourselves by taking these more autonomous routes? Do you think we could go back to ‘de-schooling society’ by Ivan Illich in the 1970s? Right, that’s a valid point. People have much more power under their own belts to agitate themselves. I think that’s a generally relevant theme as we go into the future. I agree, I think people are re-evaluating how they practice their lives and that might involve a lot more collaborative learning and mutual learning, as is happening in your project. Yes, I think the bottom line will be what works, and there are things in this model that do work and they have a chance of expanding. Thanks, that’s great. Do you have any last thoughts? I would say that if your book facilitates people coming together around open collaboration and enterprise models around that, this would be a success for what we are communicating. Group shot 2012, in the background the Brick Press. © GVCS.


Elisa (middle) with two participants at one of the Repair CafĂŠ evenings in her atelier space, Kreuzberg.

Elisa Garrote-Gasch is a Spanish artist from Valencia who has been living in Berlin for about nine years. She enjoys working with recycled materials and exploring possibilities beyond the usual artistic practices. For three years, she had a position at Kunst-Stoffe e.V. Berlin,2 a non-profit association collecting abundant industrial materials for public use and education, where she still holds workshops with children and adults. In the beginning of 2013, she initiated the first Berlin Repair CafĂŠ in Kreuzberg, an open source concept that started in 2009 in the Netherlands. More on Elisa at: Interviewed by KM.



Spaces for ideologies, repairing, recycling, and re-creating with Elisa Garrote-Gasch, Repair Café,1 Berlin

Elisa, could you tell me what brought you to Berlin and what you do these days? During my art studies, I was doing an Erasmus in Germany and I visited Berlin for the first time. I fell in love with the city immediately! There were so many projects, alternative ways of living, housing projects and so on. I particularly liked the possibility of being able to take part in projects without having a lot of money. In Valencia, you always have to be employed and dress in certain ways. In Berlin, people seemed a lot more relaxed and to have time to do what they want, especially for alternative projects. You need time to do such things, if you are on a full-time job it is rather difficult. When I first moved here around nine years ago I started taking German classes and looking for a job. I was lucky to find a nice position as environmental educator at the social enterprise Kunst-Stoffe Berlin, which I already knew through my work with recycled materials. The Berlin Senate funded the job for three years, after which I continued conducting workshops on a freelance basis. In January 2013, I started organising the Repair Café Kunst-Stoffe (KS) in our atelier. We had discussed before in our team how great it would be to have one in Berlin. Since I don’t have a fixed position at KS any more, I am doing this on a voluntary basis — I just really liked the idea. I like repairing things rather than throwing them away. A meeting space where a group of people tries to fix things is also a place for learning through the initiated processes — I thought, why not try this, too? So we started without having any funding, but it worked out really well. The media was extremely positive and interested about it, so were the people participating. Everybody liked the project.

1 2


The Repair Café (RC) was initiated in the Netherlands some years ago and has been spreading ever since. How does it work: Can everybody who is interested in setting up a local version just go for it? The first pilot RC was started in Amsterdam in 2009. Yes, the idea was that everybody could open up a RC. It does not cost a lot of money and it can be located in any kind of common meeting space provided by the city, such as a parish hall or youth centre. Along with the space and some tools, you need experts who work on a voluntary basis. We have two electricians who work with us. They are motivated by the frustration over people throwing away broken things that could easily be fixed. Many times, it is just a blown fuse, but people are often too afraid to open up home appliances! Once they have done it for the first time people tend to do it again. It is so easy and rewarding. Sometimes, even just opening up an appliance makes it work again, we had all sorts of cases. And there is no danger involved, provided it is not plugged in. How did you find the electricians? They found us! It was great, we had an open call for voluntary electricians in our own network and also on a platform for volunteering, but actually one of them already knew about the concept through a RC in Cologne It is a practical and found us by googling (laughs). The other one found against planned us on the internet as well.

fight obsolescence, it is bringing these issues to public discussion

That’s nice, when people come contacting you to help instead of the other way! There was a wide media coverage, they were totally crazy about it. Now, there are already four RCs in Berlin, and I feel the number is rising. I already heard from a few people who were planning to open up one as well, which is great. There should be one in each district, really. The demand is very high. People are just fed up with buying new things which break so quickly. It is a practical fight against planned obsolescence, it is bringing these issues to public discussion. Also, doing it together makes it a lot more fun… Yes, exactly. I think many people would not want to fix their things by themselves at home. Like this, a community is slowly developing. Also, the technicians’ support during our sessions helps to overcome fears and lack of expertise. People could also just watch a how-to video on YouTube, but that’s not the same social thing… What kind of people come to the RC? All sorts of people. It’s really nice, I meet a lot of people who I would never meet otherwise. For example, there are a lot of older people who are very interested. They have a different upbringing of not throwing away things, so many of them have a pile of broken electronic devices at home. There is this one lady who always


comes and brings something broken that she finds at home, whether it has any function or not. Also, there are quite a lot of nerds, people who want to help out and support other participants. Then, there are many people who don’t have a lot of money, the under- and un-employed and students. Sometimes, we also have product designers attending who want to learn more about the inside of a product. The audience is very diverse. How do people know about it? Just word-of-mouth? Mostly through the press coverage we had. Many people came because of an article in a local magazine in the beginning. Others know about it through our KunstStoffe networks. We definitely have enough participants. How does it work when one wants to participate in a Repair Café meeting? People have to sign up before via email and tell us what they would like to bring. Our room is quite small, so we can only host a certain amount of people. In the beginning, it was open to everyone at any time, but we soon realised that it worked much better if we agreed on times with people to avoid long queues. It is also quite stressful for the technicians when everybody is waiting for their help. We can have around twenty-two participants each time, and I usually distribute them throughout the afternoon. It’s quite a bit of organising and emailing, but it’s worth the effort. Otherwise, people might bring things we would not be able to repair. In this way, we can also get prepared for each case, so that all the tools needed are available. On the website of Repair Café, one can also find guidelines and support when setting up one. How does it work in practice? Today, there are around one hundred RCs in the Netherlands. In 2010, the Repair Café Foundation was founded to support those local RC groups with a little money and those guidelines you mentioned. I had sent them an email to ask for those materials, which were very useful. They just give some ideas on what to include and was has proven to function well, for example what kind of tools to provide for certain kinds of repairs; having a table with reading material for participants, a donation box and so on. We were awarded the Berlin environmental prize for our Repair Café, so I invited them to come to the award ceremony in the city hall next week. They haven’t answered yet as I think they are totally overwhelmed with enquiries. Congratulations! I read that they now even have to charge a small fee for the guidelines because they would otherwise not be able to cover all the work involved any more… When I asked, it didn’t cost anything yet, we were just in time! (laughs) But it’s not so much, just around €25 or so.


It is great that open-source initiatives like this can be reproduced anywhere by anyone. For the initiators, it involves a lot of work that they have to deal with in one way or another. The initiative Trade School solved this ‘problem’ by building an online community where the different local versions can exchange views about their experiences… With Repair Café, they sent us the material and then even came here for a visit. A guy who is responsible for the German RC network gave us advice and answered questions directly. Ever since, we have been independent and do not need their support any more. Still, I thought it would be nice if they could attend the ceremony too.

Many times, people come with broken objects that have a personal value

It’s a nice thought. The public’s feedback seems to be really positive. Yes, people just love it. Many times, people also come with broken objects that have a personal value and have been gathering dust since a while, so they are happy when they can make them work again.

When I brought my dear old bike to repair, the guy told me it would be much cheaper to just buy a new one. It is even supported by shops to not fix things. Also, you never know how long a product might last before it breaks. Maybe, you would buy a new one because it would be cheaper, but then it does not last for very long because it’s not well-made. You never know. I really hate buying new things. Once my music player was broken and I was reluctant to buy a new one. It’s such a difficult procedure to do all the research on different models and then decide which one would be the best. Instead of researching new models, I looked up how to fix it and even found instructions. I repaired it and was quite proud that I had avoided having to buy a new one.3 You concentrate on electronics at the RC sessions, right? How come? Yes, mainly. In the beginning, I thought everything would be possible, but we soon realised our tables were already packed with electronic devices only. If someone would show up with a broken chair, it would be difficult with noise, dust and space. There are workshops specialised in wood, bikes and other things, so I usually forward people to those addresses. There are not so many places where you can fix electronics, so that’s why we decided to focus on that field. With what kind of attitude and expectations do people come to the sessions? Some people who come bring something to fix in company, but also want to support others because they have some expertise and experience. Others don’t have any clue at all and also expect us to do everything for them as a kind of service.

3  You can find repair instructions on diverse online platforms, such as or


But that’s not the idea. We tell people that the RC is about mutual learning through experience, so we want people to participate in the active repairing. So, Repair Café is basically about enabling people through a learning experience to do the next repair themselves? The initial aim is to overcome the fear that holds The aim is to overcome people back from fixing things themselves, and to the fear that holds gain the insight: “Hah, it is possible, I can do it!” Also, Repair Cafés are promoting the culture of repeople back from fixing pair, making it more popular amongst the public. things themselves, and Who knows, maybe it is a new business opportuto gain the insight nity, to open affordable repair shops for people to bring their broken electronics. Does the problem of people not knowing where to bring their broken things seem bigger than people being crazy about buying new stuff? I can totally understand if people don’t find the time to fix their things, but I really don’t understand why there is no viable alternative to throwing them in the garbage. You referred to time and alternative ways of living as important topics for your work. What is your idea of work as such? How do you manage to integrate these ideas and still make a livelihood?

Getting to grips with electronic circuits.


I believe people live too fast. I am well-aware that RC is a lot of voluntary hours, but I do it because I believe in it. It cannot be sustainable to work for money all the time. It makes you consume crap all the time, such as coffee-to-go, fast food, all this nonsense. This system is bound to collapse at some point. It cannot go on like this. People should only work half-time, so that they have enough quality time for meaningful things instead of consuming fast and using the world’s resources for nothing of value. Of course, this sounds very ideological. It is problematic in the world in which we live. Our culture is still very capitalist and money-oriented. Berlin seems willing to learn and experiment with I do it because I alternative economies and sustainable lifestyles. I still believe in it. It cannot live in a shared apartment with four people, only buy be sustainable to work things I really need, ride my bike or use public transfor money all the time port instead of having a car. Of course, this only works in bigger cities with the necessary infrastructure like Berlin. Still, I think people can try to have time for themselves to lead a sustainable life. Of course, it means always thinking about where the next money comes from. How do you make a living? I earn most of my money through my jobs with Kunst-Stoffe. With them, it is easy to estimate how much money I can demand for services such as workshops. I also do art work and I like to exhibit from time to time, but I don´t make a living from it. It would be a full-time job, therefore I would probably lose the freedom to organise projects such as the Repair Café or work with Kunst-Stoffe. The art world, galleries and so on demand you to be there at 100 percent for them. For Repair Café, we constantly try to write applications to get funding. We received a small grant with the environmental award, €3 000, which we will distribute equally amongst each other. Hopefully, things work out in the future. Admittedly, it is a little difficult — but even with a fixed position, things can be difficult. It almost does not matter what you do, people always feel precarious. One day you can be at the top of it and the next day it is all gone. The crisis was the best example. It showed that leading a simple life makes you more resilient to sudden changes of outer circumstances. In Spain, the situation is exploited by employers. People have to work more without getting paid more but cannot complain because it is already considered fortunate to have a job at all. How is it with your Spanish friends, how did they deal with the crisis? Did people leave the country in search of work? Not too many of them work within the field of art and culture. One of my friends is a teacher, others became squatters in Barcelona and live without any money, others work in a bank whilst others are unemployed, so it is very different. But


nobody is involved in projects such as Repair Café here in Berlin. There are simply no possibilities. There are no vacant spaces, no available cultural funding... … Which is substantial for this field. You were very fortunate to find Kunst-Stoffe as an employer. What kind of workshops do you do with kids? I have always worked with reusable materials, so it was very praxis-oriented. Right now we also have workshops which are more content-oriented, such as one called 'Gone the bluff package!' ('Weg mit der Mogelpackung!'). On the first day, we show how much packaging trash is produced in Berlin per day and per person and visualise the immense amounts of energy and resources required to bring those packaged goods to our dining table. Afterwards, we do a little tour in Kunst-Stoffe to show what is being thrown away and recovered by our association. Next, we have a day of ‘school-detectives’, where the children investigate how much and what kind of trash is being produced at school, we talk about what things could be improved to reduce the amount of trash. On the third day, we tinker for five hours, building a ‘Future Utopian City’ out of trash. The kids have to bring packages from home, from which we build the city. It is quite a bit of fun! Another workshop I conduct is about upcycling, where we make wallets and such from empty milk containers. So there are certain workshop concepts that you repeat with different groups of children. Do you work with schools? Yes, and those workshops are funded as well so I can conduct them the whole year through. It is very useful because it gives me the opportunity to experiment with a teaching concept until it really works. How old are the kids? Around nine years old. We had to define the age group in the applications. We chose this age because it is most effective with this topic. If they are much younger or older, they are usually not so interested. Sometimes, we also conduct workshops with adults, but not very often. This is mostly connected to more funding being available to work with children. It’s great what children learn these days in school. When I was younger, these topics were not so important in education. Let me ask you a few questions about KunstStoffe: what do they do and how do they organise themselves? Kunst-Stoffe is a non-profit association collecting abundant left-over materials. Companies and also private people can donate those materials. It is possible to call and bring materials, or Kunst-Stoffe comes to collect the materials themselves in a tour. What kind of companies are involved and what kind of materials are being donated? The donations are sorted according to materials, so we have different rooms for wood, metal, textiles, plastics… The companies vary. Regularly, we get a lot of ad-


vertisement banners. Sometimes, those banners are huge! It is material made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), so from an environmental point of view not the greatest, but quite nice to make bags which can then be sold. It is getting more and more difficult though with companies in Berlin because they don’t want to invest too much time in planning when and how to donate their waste. Rather, they just throw it away. We used to have a position devoted to the acquisition of materials only. With this position gone, our storages are not the fullest these days. It is quite a bit of work to get the materials. What happens to the materials? Can people just come and take what they need? The material stores are open three days a week and people can come by and buy whatever they need very cheaply. Is that how the association finances itself? Partly, but it also gets revenue through workshops. There is a workshop devoted to building cargo bikes, for example. We used to get funding from a foundation. Now, we are in a bit of an emergency situation at the moment. We have to continue trying to get continued funding to be able to compete with hardware stores, who sell virgin materials very cheaply. It is difficult. How many people are you? We are around ten people involved in different ways. The only fixed position is the office manager which involves project management and public relations (PR). Also, we have an elderly man taking care of the premises. Everybody has a lot of freedom and there are no hierarchical structures. It is a very nice atmosphere. Sounds good. How is it with your artistic work, you mentioned you don’t like to work with galleries and art institutions? I guess that was a conscious decision? I don’t like the atmosphere and the business around art. If you decide to work for galleries, you have to do it a hundred percent. I think there are a lot of alternative ways of doing art. What is your approach to art? For me, art is about communication. It does not need to be geared towards profit, but rather ideas. Repair Café is a kind of art project for me. It creates a space for ideologies and ideas that would otherwise not exist. It is political art in public space. I also like art that is only about aesthetics without political content, if that’s possible. I enjoy making artistic works and just getting lost in the making, without having to think about any political message. This kind of art is more personal, more about me. Projects such as the RC is much more social and political. It has a very clear function and direction. Thanks Elisa for your inspiring insights! Thanks for your interest.


During a Repair CafĂŠ workshop.


Makeable Workshop at UngMartha, Helsinki, 2013 Š Anja-Lisa Hirscher.

Make{able} is a workshop concept to raise awareness about alternatives to fast-fashion and its over-production, over-consumption and disposal. The project aims to en{able} people to design and make their own garments by generating knowledge, skills and new ideas by applying participatory clothing design methods. The idea is to bring issues about slower consumption into discussion and to showcase practical, fun, accessible and affordable possibilities. Make{able} aims to create a working environment in which everybody can gain knowledge about clothes making and the related processes. We try and facilitate a joyful atmosphere with the energy of working together on creating something beautiful to wear, love and value for a long time. Anja-Lisa Hirscher, see p. 240.

Case Study

Make{able} – Valuable clothes designed together by Anja-Lisa Hirscher

Purpose/aim of the project: The overall aim was to create a greater awareness about the mass-consumption and disposal of fast and cheap fashion, and then to explore ways to reduce this fast-fashion consumption by focusing on creating a stronger valued person-product attachment through involving users in the making process. The idea was to create longer-lasting products and a deeper understanding of the whole manufacturing process related to a garment. Names of the people involved: Initiator and main organiser: Anja-Lisa Hirscher Designers: Tjasa Avsec, Anja-Lisa Hirscher, Harri Homi, Nina Chen, Teresa Mair Other Creatives: Vendula Johanova (Psychologist/ Financial Coordinator), Daniel Morales (Photographer), Laura Reinikka (Sewing Assistant) Key stakeholders: Participating designers and citizens, providers of venue and workshop spaces and material suppliers. Geographic location: At present, all workshops have been held in Helsinki, Finland, but it is not bound to a certain location. We are also planning to create instructions and advice on how to set up a Make{able} workshop in other countries, which will be found in the future on our website. Supported by: A European Union grant from the Youth in Action Programme; donations of materials come from commercial and Not-For-Profit (NFP) organisations in the form of pre- and post-consumer textile waste (namely: Basic Fashion Oy, Engström Textiles, Marimekko); spaces have been provided free of charge by Made in Kallio, Wärkfest, Arkadia International Bookshop, and Kaupunki Verstaas. Start date/Finish date: May 2012 – ongoing. Website or other online resource:


BEGINNING What triggered the project? The project was initiated by Anja-Lisa Hirscher during the practice-led research of her master’s thesis entitled ‘Joyful participation in new ways of designing and making clothes’.1 The thesis aimed to explore ways to enable a stronger personproduct relationship between the wearer and the garment by involving people in the design and making process of an item of clothing. To ease the step of the first involvement, and to motivate users to start making, participatory design workshops were initiated, providing sewing equipment, assistance and half-way garments to be completed by the participants. The workshops appeared to be very popular, swhich made the decision easy on trying to find other interested (fashion) designers and to apply for funding to create a longer-term series of workshops with different topics. What was your motivation? The motivation came through the research and reading widely during the development of the master’s thesis. It was hard to find examples and applications of participatory fashion and clothing design. There were a few examples of upcycling and redesign workshops with clothing, but very little explorations had been done on the potential of creating person-product attachment through participatory design processes. The first idea was to explore tools and methods that make it easier to get the citizens/users involved and to overcome restricting factors such as time, skills, necessary equipment etc. This brought up the combination of working with halfway clothing in a workshop setting as a way to minimise those restricting factors. The concept seems to be working, as many beginner level sewers proudly made their own wearable outfits. Are there similar projects? Did these stimulate you and are you linked to them in any way? Yes, such as sewing cafes and redesign workshops. For example, Fashion Reloaded2 and Nadelwald Sewing Café,3 both in Berlin. However, neither of these worked with the concept of half-way clothing, so we offer something new here. The half-way approach eases the user’s involvement, as it generally requires less time to finish a half-way object, but still allows a strong impact on the design. Half-way clothing is a concept where the user is invited to become part of the design process. Halfway items are designed unfinished intentionally. The functionality of the item is achieved through the user’s input in the design and making process.

1  The full PDF is online available here: 2 3


How did the idea evolve? The idea evolved from the research for a master’s thesis where Anja developed a workshop concept that could be initiated in different locations. She set up a website with open-source patterns. The open content grew through the process of facilitating workshops and discussions between the participants and designers. A small team emerged and we aimed to create a holistic workshop framework, also usable for other groups of makers and designers. The concept of Make{able} should be easy to replicate in another country/city with a new team and new ideas for half-way products. We were constantly in search of ways to make it fun and easy for the participants to become active in making their own clothes, not only once in the workshop, but for them to keep on learning. We hope that our participants will gain a greater awareness about factors of quality and production through their own making experience. What are/were the key organisational aspects and organisational structures? Anja-Lisa Hirscher is the founder and organiser of the events (materials, space machines), media communications and website. To date, the designers, and facilitators at the workshops are Tjasa Avsec, Anja-Lisa Hirscher, Harri Homi, Nina Chen, Teresa Mair, and Laura Reinikka. Vendula Johanova does the bookkeeping. Was the organisation informal or formal? Informal, with different people facilitating different workshops. Target audience and network(s)? Young adults between twenty to thirty-five years old, both male and female, interested in making and learning about sewing and An attitude of openness is designing. Networking with local Do-It-Yourself/ essential for the process Do-It-Together (DIY/DIT) groups, seamstresses (Soul Sewing), makers groups, other design initiatives, the city of Helsinki and other organisations (Kaupunki Verstaas, Wärkfest, Made in Kallio) were essential to the success of the workshop events.

ACTING & DOING What are or were the key activities? Creating a network of designers and supporters, apply for funding, organising the events including new designs, material supplies and spaces, motivating participants, especially in the early phases of the project. What are or were the key approach & methods? An attitude of openness is essential for the process, sharing and exploring different methods, and all participants need to be flexible and adaptable during the events, especially the designers who are facilitating. Developing the network of design-








Different Make{able} Workshops at: Made in Kallio [1 & 3] © Daniel Morales. UngMartha [2 & 6] and MOA [4] © AnjaLisa Hirscher. Kierrätystehdas [5] © Hesam Pakbeen. [5]

ers, supporters and participants in order to increase the visibility of the Make{able} concept. It was important to have well-known and easy to access locations, and to participate in well-known events of related groups and projects (such as WärkFest).4 How did you get people participating? By word-of-mouth, friends, Facebook events, and through the organisations in whose venues we held workshops. We used our website and a growing mail list of participants (including email invitations and advertising through the spaces where we facilitated the workshops). We also distributed flyers and posters around the specific locations where we would host the next workshop. What is/was essential for practical matters? We needed four or more sewing machines at each workshop. These were usually provided by the designers. Sample and waste textiles came from commercial companies and second-hand shops. The spaces were provided by organisations5 in empathy with Make{able}’s aims. The workshop convenors need plenty of facilitation and teaching skills combined with lots of patience and the ability to interpret the participants’ needs. They also need the ability to design and prepare products, or halfway garments, which can be made by anyone with any level of skills in the workshop. What are/were the key communication channels and methods? Facebook (events and page), email-list of participants, email invitations, website and other bloggers/websites advertising the events. What are/were the outcomes with reference to the target audience? There were many very enthusiastic regular participants and first-time sewers who became regular visitors to the workshop events we held. We are not really able to say whether the person-product attachment increased as a result of making one’s clothing as we did not follow this up over a longer period of time. Behaviour change needs more time and opportunities to evolve. However, these ideas were discussed with the participants during the workshops. We were also able to see great social interaction happening through the making together in the workshops, which was a really nice side effect of the making and learning together. What are/were the impacts — target audience and wider? Difficult to measure yet regarding the behaviour change of the participants, however we got a lot of recognition about the concept of half-way products and making

4 5  Materials: Basic Fashion Oy,; Engström Textiles,; Marimekko, www.; Spaces: Made in Kallio,; Wärkfest,; Arkadia International Bookshop,; and Kaupunki Verstaas,


one’s own clothing through various articles published. Over time, more and more participants join the workshops on a regular basis. Participants were very positive in their feedback meaning they appreciate the concept and idea, and are willing to learn more. What are/were the dates of special or key events? First event: 5th May 2012. Website/Blog online: February 2013. EU funding received: 20th May 2013.

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is/was the project sustained? It was mainly based on the voluntary work of the designers, donations of materials from different enterprises, and a small participation fee for material supply (around €5 per person). The EU funding for materials and the free use of the spaces where the workshops were facilitated were also essential. What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? Human and social capital, with manufactured capital (the sewing machines and textiles/fabrics).

there needs to grow an in-

Is it self-sustaining now or will it be in the future? terest in investing time to It is not self-sustaining yet in financial terms. make unique clothing, and There are ongoing discussions about creating enjoying the experience of an official, formal organisation, setting higher participation fees and so on, but we feel that making together instead the general mindset still needs to change. Once of going shopping people have had a positive making experience, they seem likely to invest time and money again. This implies that there needs to grow a bigger understanding and interest in investing time to make unique clothing, and enjoying the experience of making together instead of going to the shopping centre or mall. Are you happy with the project? Would you change anything? We are very happy with the project, its outreach and the discussions which ensued. We would not change things radically, however it is very important for a project based on voluntary contributions to have a core team involved with a high level of commitment and which can share the responsibilities. We also need to think about a viable enterprise model where people can contribute financially but enjoy making, sharing and creating together.


Was the project as you expected or did you encounter anything unexpected? It worked very smoothly, we were very positively surprised by the feedback, the response of participants and the designers’ willingness to get involved, as well as the interest of the media and companies supplying fabrics. Workshops are of course always hard to plan in advance, as it depends on the participants, so little things can always occur, but with flexibility and openness to the process, it is easy to manage. Is the project scalable? Yes it is scalable and can be copied or applied in any other location. We are thinking of a detailed plan to offer franchising in different countries/cities. What are your future plans? For Make{able} we have different plans to start workshops in other European countries, and some workshops for mothers with small children. Anja has also cofounded a new platform, MODE UNCUT — the Open Fashion Design Network6 to explore other ways of opening up the fashion/clothing industry. Based on the same values of openness, transparency and sharing, we aim to explore further models and new relationships between designers, producers and consumers.

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? A pattern library was created online, including some DIY videos and illustrated instructions for some of the designs. Besides that we are working on the idea to publicise the concept to be copied and applied in other locations. Altogether, we had about 140 participants in the Helsinki workshop events so far. What capacity did you build? How did you change people’s lives? Key outcomes and impacts were of course in tangible new clothing created by the participants during the workshops. The website content is a transparent and open-source documentation on the different designs and the workshop concept. Regarding the impacts such as changing the consumption behaviour of the participants, we would need to run a longitudinal research study to give more sufficient data. So far, we can only point out that through discussions and email feedback forms. We received positive feedback about the use and current higher value of the self-made garments, as well as a higher awareness towards the issue of fast-fashion production and consumption. Several participants also stated that they discovered new joy in making things themselves and regular workshop participants increased their skill levels in sewing.



We felt that we enabled a variety of participants with new practical knowledge about sewing and garment construction, but also were able to create a deeper understanding about the issues related to fast-fashion production and consumption. Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? Yes, definitively. It exceeded our expectations in terms of participation. We aimed to create a series of monthly workshops during the period of eight months and host about eighty participants. However, we managed to host twelve workshops with about 140 participants over the span of about a year. We also aimed to offer a website with a good documentation of the workshops and design outcomes, including a pattern library with instructions, which is all online now. Beyond that, we created a growing network of involved designers to continue with the workshops.

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned? Be open and flexible, and if possible have a backup plan. Overall, we are very happy about the success and appreciation of the workshop participants, and all the work put in by the volunteer designers and other supporters. It is easy to simply ask for support, advice and materials, and most often people are very eager to get involved, which is amazing! So best advice to give: Go out, find like-minded people and get started! What can be given as advice for the readers? • It worked really well to ask companies and organisations for material donations or using their spaces for free, this helps already a lot in reducing material and rental costs. • For funding application it is good to plan well in advance, as they most often take half a year or longer to make a decision. • It is beneficial to have a team which brings in different expertise and characters, such as organisational skills, project management, accounting, design, photography and of course team skills, openness, engagement and flexibility are very important to make it all function smoothly. • For a good communication and visibility, we can recommend the use of social media — we mainly used Facebook and blogging, but we also made an emaillist of participants of each event which can be circulated later to invite them again. Of course word-of-mouth is very important, and participating in events which support similar ideas. • It is important that the team itself is very enthusiastic about what they are doing. If you have a busy, energetic workshop running, even some visitors passing by will stop and join or ask what’s happening. The motivation and engagement of the core team is the main drive that makes things grow.

Ying-Ju Lin - Making together! Turn used cooking oil into cleaning soap.



Intervening Introducing activities and/or artefacts to engage, by consensus or disruption, to stimulate dialogue towards a common purpose as a means to better our world.


Alastair Fuad-Luke is a sustainable design facilitator, consultant, educator, writer and activist with over fifteen years experience in Europe and internationally. He is currently Professor of Emerging Design Practices at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture (Aalto ARTS), Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland. His books include Design Activism (2009), The Eco-Design Handbook (2002, 2005 and 2009) and The Eco-Travel Handbook (2008) revealing his passion for society-wide engagement with design as a means to live a more fulfilling and sustainable life. He now resides in Portugal where he is exploring how design can create new livelihoods and alternative economies.



Design activism’s teleological freedoms as a means to transform our habitus by Alastair Fuad-Luke

We have witnessed a ‘social turn’ in design over the last decade that is gathering momentum as existing and new power structures perceive ‘designing’ as a means to achieve their telos, goal directed purpose. I prefer to talk about the ‘socialisation of design(-ing)’, that is, how the ‘field’1 of design is becoming an activity that is not the sole preserve of professionally trained designers as their approaches, methodologies and processes are being adopted by other professionals, professional amateurs (pro-ams) and citizens.2 There’s a tension here between ‘authorised/non-authorised designers’3 and ‘expert/diffuse design’.4 ‘Designing’ here is seen as an activity geared to goals, objectives and aims within a broad societal context, as distinct from a context bounded purely by commerce, finances, politics or economics. Designing contributes to our civic political condition, elsewhere defined as ‘the political’.5 Within this social turn we see new academic dialogues and design research activities; the rise of designers and design agencies providing services to specific

1  I use the term ‘field’ here to denote a ‘field of study’ with its own body and theory of knowledge, definitions, language, cultural conventions and way of knowing and validating, i.e. its own epistemological position. 2  We can see that this ‘socialisation’ has been driven by the shift, over the last two decades, from a focus on materials, artefacts and spatial expressions of design(-ing) towards more conceptual and/or ideological goals where the application of design thinking, participation and processes are integrated by involving diverse actors and stakeholders within an inter-disciplinary environment. 3  Fuad-Luke, A., 2014. Design(-ing) for Radical Relationality: ‘Relational design’ for confronting dangerous, concurrent, contingent realities. In: Emerging Practices in Design. Professions, Values and Approaches. Shanghai: Tongji University Press, pp.42-73. 4  Manzini, E., 2015. Design, when Everybody Designs. An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 5  Here the work of philosopher and political theorist Chantal Mouffe and her framing of ‘agonistic pluralism’ defines what politics is and is not. For Mouffe ‘‘politics’… ‘indicates an ensemble of practices, discourses and institutions which seek to establish a certain order and organise human coexistence in conditions that are always potentially conflictual because they are affected by the dimension of ‘the political’ ’ where the latter is seen as ‘the dimension of antagonism that is inherent in human relations, antagonism that can take many forms and emerge in different type of social relations’. See Mouffe, C., 2000. Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism. Reihe Politikwissenschaft, Political Science Series, Vienna: Institut für Höhere Studien (HIS)/Institute for Advanced Studies, p.15.


clients within the societal context; and an increasing involvement of professionals and citizens who (knowingly or unknowingly) apply design thinking, processes and approaches.6 These dialogues have coalesced around two centres of discourse, ‘design activism’ and ‘social design’. This essay examines the framing of these discourses, practices and their teleological orientations to raise questions about their agency and potentiality to challenge our habitus,7 generate alternatives and create positive societal change.

The language of design activism and social design Language is at the core of habitus, further understood as ‘a structure of the mind characterised by a set of acquired schemata, sensibilities, dispositions and taste’8 where ‘schemata’ are organised patterns of thought or behaviour. ‘Re-patterning’ language is concomitant with periods of paradigm change or transition.9 Design activism and social design are situated within the meta-field of sustainability and sustainable development. They relate to Design for Sustainability (DfS), social sustainability and ‘sustainism’,10 although, presently they have little alignment with more politically and philosophically radical positions such as ‘sustainment’.11 New evidence has shown that language is so deeply embedded in culturally acceptable practices, it strongly influences the way we think.12 So, I thought I would start my inquiry by exploring the language of design activism and social design by taking published definitions and analysing them for commonality and difference.13

6  See the definition of design activism in Fuad-Luke, A. 2009. Design Activism. London: Earthscan. p.27. 7  ‘Habitus’ is a term applied by philosophers (originally attributed to Aristotle, but developed by Bourdieu, Weber and others), phenomenologists (Husserl, Merleau-Ponty) and sociologists (Mauss, Weber) to denote the structuring of the mind by non-discursive knowledge i.e. by its learned habits, one’s bodily skills, and by the cultural forces of taste and style. In short, we can change our habitus if we, or something, changes our worldview. 8  Scott, J. and Gordon, M., eds. 1998. A Dictionary of Sociology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 9  Wood, J., 2013. Meta-designing Paradigm Change: An Ecomimetic, Language-Centred Approach. In: Walker, S. and Giard, J., eds. 2013. The Handbook of Design for Sustainability, London: Bloomsbury. pp.428-445. 10  ‘Sustainism’-is a concept coined by Michiel Schwarz and Joost Elffers describing the relations between ‘global connectivity, sustainability, open exchange, and resurgence of the local.’ Schwartz, M. and Krabbendam, D. 2013. Sustainist Design Guide, Amsterdam: BIS Publishers. p.19. 11  ‘Sustainment (the overcoming of the unsustainable)’ in Fry, T., 2011. Design and Politics. Oxford/New York: Berg. p.viii. 12  Deutscher, G., 2011. Through the Language Glass. Why the world looks different in other languages. London: Arrow Books. 13  For my analysis I took definitions of ‘design activism’ from the following sources: Chick, A. and Micklethwaite, P., 2011, Design for Sustainable Change. How design and designers can drive the sustainability agenda, AVA Publishing: Lausanne. p.59; Fuad-Luke, A., 2009. Design Activism. Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World. London: Earthscan. p. 27; Leeds Festival of Design Activism, 2009, available at; Markussen, T., 2011. The Disruptive Aesthetics of Design Activism: Enacting Design Between Art and Politics. In: Nordes ’11: the 4th Nordic Design Research Conference, Making Design Matter!, 29-31 May 2011, School of Art and Design, Aalto University, Helsinki. pp. 102-110. Available at; Thorpe, A., 2008. Design as Activism: A conceptual tool. In: Peruccio, C. and Peruccio, P. eds. 2008. Changing the Change Proceedings. Changing the Change conference, Turin, Italy, June 2008. pp.1523-1535. Available at; Thorpe, A., 2008-2012. Design activism. Available at For ‘social design’ I sourced definitions from the following: Chick, A. 2012. Design for social innovation: Emerging principles and approaches. Iridescent: Icograda Journal of Design Research, 2 (1); Mapping Social Design project, University of Brighton,; Margolin, V. and Margolin, S., 2002. A “social model” of


My first observation is that social design embraces a range of terminology including design for society, socially responsible design, socially responsive design, and design for social innovation, perhaps, in an attempt to sound less totalitarian and politically motivated as in ‘social design’ i.e. ‘designing society’. Analysing the key words of the definitions, I created two ‘wordles’, one for design activism and the other for social design (Figures 1 and 2). There are four prominent words for design activism ‘change, social’ then ‘life, practice’. There is a hierarchy of prominent words for social design, starting with ‘development, social’, followed by ‘socially’, then ‘economic, good, government, human, local, practices, providers, solutions’. The structuring of language already seems more developed in social design to the extent that it identifies certain contextual elements such as key stakeholders (government, providers), pragmatic framing (development, economic, solutions, practices) combined with moral intentions and approaches (social, socially, human, good). Activists appear in both of my wordles but, interestingly activists do not appear in three wordles recently included in a major European research study, TEPSIE,14 defining social innovation and its practices.

Figure 1. ‘Wordle’ for ‘design activism’,

Figure 2. ‘Wordle’ for ‘social design’,

generated by JavaScript software at

generated by JavaScript software at

design: Issues of practice and research. Design Issues, 18, ( 4), pp.24-20; Miettinen, S., ed. 2007. Design Your Action. Social Design in Practice. Helsinki: University of Art and Design. p.7.; Thorpe, A. and Lorraine G., 2011. Design with society: why socially responsive design is good enough. CoDesign International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts, 7 (3-4), pp.217-219; Yongqi, L., 2013 Shè Jì – Change for Sustainable Futures. In: Walker, S. and Giard, J. eds. 2013. The Handbook of Design for Sustainability. London: Bloomsbury. pp.347-362 14  The first wordle emphasises ‘new, changes, definition, dimension, needs, economic, process, dimension’ (Part I, p.10); the second wordle on ‘social innovation’ highlights ‘social, public, sector, innovation’ (Part II, p.5); and the third wordle, on ‘social innovation trends’, stresses ‘new, people, services, problems, thinking, open’. Source: Caulier-Grice, J., Davies, A., Patrick, R., and Norman, W. 2012. Defining Social Innovation. A deliverable of the project: ‘The theoretical, empirical and policy foundations for building social innovation in Europe‘, (TEPSIE), European Commission – 7th Framework Programme, Brussels: European Commission, DG Research.


Further exploration of these mini-lexicons from these sourced definitions of design activism and social design reveals some key characteristics in specific areas of focus (Table 1). In general, the main institutional and societal stakeholders are common to both design sub-fields, but social design specifies roles for various identified professionals – experts, facilitators, designers – with ‘others’, including users and ‘non-designers’. For design activism the issues range across society, whereas the remit of social design seems more aligned with dominant political structures, policies, economic development and for the ‘social good’. Contextually, design activism is grounded in proposing, seeking and developing ‘alternatives’, whereas the context of social design is driven by the agendas of the key design activism is grounded stakeholders, especially the government, providin proposing, seeking and ers (of services, products, materials) and grass root developing ‘alternatives’ innovators. The attitudes and activities of social design have an underlying pragmatism, looking for effective outputs, capacity building and to developing capabilities and wise use of assets. In contrast, design activism reveals an ideological, experimental and more radical remit around contestation and asks, What could be? This is carried through to the outputs which strive for the means to encourage a better and different society based on new visions, beliefs, values and the forging of new ‘norms’ as outcomes. Social design absorbs grass roots innovations into new policies and professional practices in order to develop these innovations within the institutions. The key aim is about creating a social economy for the public and social good.

Differences in framing This language reveals some common characteristics for design activism and social design based on prognostic framing (Table 2). This framing helps identify alternatives by asking who can solve the problems and what can be done. It brings people together to participate in collective processes asking how we deal with sustainability challenges, particularly from a social sustainability perspective. However, further examination of the framing for design activism reveals some substantive differences. Design activism is not structurally coupled to economic/local/sustainable development. It contests the paradigmatic ‘structural coupling’, ‘co-dependent affinities’ and ‘locked-in’ ‘constellations of meaning’.15 Design activists are free to choose their focal issues and the type of power structures they work with, for or

15  These terms refer to existing power structures. See ibid. Wood. 2013. Wood refers to ‘co-dependent affinities’, where the existence of the car/automobile creates many affinities, such as ‘rapid response/hospitals, roads/taxation, out-of-town/supermarkets and so on’, which as a phenomenon is described as ‘structural coupling’ by Maturana and Varela, 1980 cited in his article. In the same compendium, Knowles et al. refer to cyber-sustainability and near-future web developments as being already ‘locked in…constellations of meaning’. See Knowles, B., Walker, S. and Blair, L., 2013. Design for Cyber-Sustainability: Toward a Sustainable Digital Future. In: Walker, S. and Giaard. J. eds. The Handbook of Design for Sustainability. London: Bloomsbury. pp.488-512.


Area of focus


Design activism –

Social design –

key characteristics

key characteristics

people; society; designers; non-design-

people; government; providers (com-

ers; activists; advocacy groups; public

mercial and non-profit); activists;

agencies; the public (consumers); busi-

grass root innovators; community;


users; funders; experts; facilitators; designers; non-designers


causes; challenges; conventions or

local, international and sustainable

‘norms’; production & consumption;

development; political; policies; public

environmental, social, institutional

& social good; innovation; professional

and economic sustainability

practice; environmental, social, institutional and economic sustainability


proposes or seeks ‘alternatives’ ground-

driven by key stakeholders:

ed in: people’s diverse real everyday

government, providers; driven by key

life; activism arises anywhere; contests

issues defined by stakeholders

status quo; questioning values; design applied knowingly or unknowingly; artefacts and innovative forms



ideological – beliefs, values, radical;

participation through co-design, col-

activity – clear intent, actions, ap-

laboration; responsible and respon-

plied, disruptive, counter-narrative;

sive social/socially orientated change;

questioning – constraints; direction-

diffused practices; innovation; hu-

ality and ownership of design-(ing)

man instinct

balancing, changing, creating, dis-

implementing (policies), innovating

rupting, encompassing, engaging,

(grass roots), improving, practising,

generating, revealing, thinking,

applying processes, co-designing,

(re)-valuing, imagining, influenc-

collaborating, diffusing (practices),

ing, promoting, questioning, raising

discovering, enacting, enhancing,

awareness, visioning, practising,

facilitating, materialising, popularis-

applying (design differently)

ing, stimulating, (strategic design) thinking, understanding


better situations; new knowledge;

new policies; grass roots innovations;

new creative practices, processes

professional practices

and models; artefacts Outcomes

new beliefs, values, visions and

development of the social economy;

potential ‘norms’; positive change;

public and social good; policy chang-

potential sustainable futures

es; new livelihoods

Table 1. Comparing key language characteristics and orientation of design activism with social design.


Design activism

Common characteristics

Social design

• participatory democracy

concerns for:

• participation in representa-

• contests ‘structural coupling’,

• people, social, society

tive democracy

‘co-dependent affinities’,

• participation and collective

• primary stakeholders work

‘locked in… constellations of


within a power structure

meaning’ and ‘constituted

• sustainable futures and the

predominantly defined by


sustainability prism – eco-


• agonistic pluralism

nomic, social, institutional and

• neo-liberal consensualism

• interests of diverse com-

environmental well-being

• negotiated interests


• designers

• entrepreneurial logic

• utopian logic

• activists

• effectiveness within existing

• change of habitus

• practices


• radical innovation

• processes

• incremental innovation

• motivational framing

• prognostic framing

• diagnostic framing

Table 2. The framing of design activism and social design.

against. They are free to work with diverse communities - of practice, place, interest or circumstance - in a pluralist and agonist agenda which is shaped by participatory, not representative, democracy. Design activism is expressed in pluralistic, utopian and agonistic disruptions of habitus. The propositions are poly-teleological and aimed at diversifying our habitus. Its framing is highly motivational and a call to action(-ing). Its focus is radical change. Social design is framed in representative democracy, entrepreneurial logic, diagnostic framing — What is the problem? Who is responsible? —, prevalent power structures, and effectiveness through neo-liberal consensual-ism. Social design appears more constricted as it is underpinned by a pre-defined purpose — public and social good within a neo-liberal agenda — configSocial design’s latent ured by the primary funders and driving organagency is constricted by isations. Any alternatives it generates will only be existing power relations ‘scaled up’ (to use a phrase gaining traction in social innovation discourse) if they align with the telos of this agenda. Consequently, it is difficult to see how it can offer more than incremental innovation to pressing social needs. Social design’s latent agency is constricted by existing power relations. It is not contesting our habitus, but seeks to effectuate society’s capacity to act in the current neo-liberal paradigm of economic growth. In contrast, design activism has significant freedoms to apply itself to re-assembling, re-association,16 making new relations, and re-coding products, services and experiences in order to create ‘alternatives’ which challenge existing power structures and relations. Design activism hints at more polycentric governance and so, consequently, it is a direct challenge to the dominant power structures.


Agreement, agonism and antagonism The teleological orientations of design activism and social design mean that consensus and dissensus tend to be applied in different ways17 (Figure 3). The overall telos of social design is achieving consensus through the organisational structures, norms and practices of the key stakeholders. Dissensus tends to occur in dialogue, not in the actions or materialisations of design(-ing), and it must comply with accepted institutional cultural practices and language. Social design is, perhaps, therefore limited to expressions of ‘weak agonism’ because it needs agreement to effectuate change (Figure 3). Design activism is not bounded by such constraints and, indeed, has a history of applying practices designed to provoke (antagonise) and to

Role of design (ers)






Increasing dissent

Design activism

Role of other social actors or stakeholders

Increasing dissent




Increasing consent


Social design

ee gr

A t


m Increasing consent

Figure 3. Designers and other stakeholders can take consensual or dissensual roles to generate agreement, agonism and/or antagonism depending upon the telos of their action or project.

16  I borrow the terms ‘reassembling’ and ‘re-association’ from Bruno Latour who used these words to expand the meaning of the word ‘social’ as a ‘particular sort of thing, but only as a very peculiar movement of re-association and reassembling’. Labour, B.2007. Reassembling the Social. An introduction to Actor-Network- Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p.7. 17  In 2012, I developed this framework for showing the roles of the designers and other stakeholders in terms of consensus and dissensus, and first presented it at a keynote talk entitled ’Design(ing) for Transition and contingent eco-socio-political realities’ at the U Design ’12 conference organised by ID+ research group of the University of Aveiro and the University of Porto, Aveiro, Portugal on 14 July 2012.


create dialogue and positions of contestation (agonism), but it can also encourage consensus (agreement). These practices not only involve an understanding of the problématique and the ideation of concepts, but the insertion of ‘one-off’ materialised designs or practices into different socio-spatial environments. Design activists can adopt the position of ‘non-aligned social broker’ to undertake maverick, solo or collective interventions.18 Of course, social design applies the practice of ‘prototyping’ new services and other interventions, but its potential agency is restricted by its weak agonism and caution against provocation because of its underlying framing of representative democracy — it doesn’t pay to antagonise the people while trying to represent and serve them. This might explain why we are seeing a proliferation of ‘pop-up’ designs and interventions in cities19 that are being permitted, or at least not banned, by city municipalities because design activists can offer they wish to see the effects of this exa potent contribution to perimentation while not being directly responsible for it. Recently it has been developing counter-narratives, observed that some of the challenging counter-dialogues and counter- interventions made within the World actions which reframe everyday Design Capital 2012, held in Helsinki, problems as possibilities Finland, are being rapidly absorbed, adopted and adapted by the city municipalities themselves.20 This can be seen as socially progressive and, indeed, Helsinki City has recently appointed three ‘city designers’ to explore how design could better serve the citizens. Let’s see how this evolves. So, the latent agency of design activism, resulting from its teleological freedoms, enables it to challenge our existing social ‘material and expressive assemblages’21 and suggest rich possibilities of re-association, re-assembly and posit new relations through design(-ing) as a means to imagine and enact social change in everyday life practices. Gasper Mallol refers to ‘design f(r)ictions’ as micro-situations of dissent.22 ‘Fictions’ should be understood as projections, and ‘frictions’ as irritations, ‘in order to fabulate the commonplace’. Her word ‘commonplace’ can be translated as meaning ubiquitous social material assemblies which we share and encounter

18  Fuad-Luke, 2009, ibid, p.xxi. 19  See the diverse examples presented in the Pop-Up City blog, 20  See the Special Issue on ‘design activism’ in Design and Culture, July 2013, especially Bergland, E., Design as Activism in Helsinki: Notes from the World Design Capital 2012, pp. 195-214; and Julier, G. From Design Culture to Design Activism, pp.215-236. 21  ‘Material and expressive assemblages’ is drawn from assemblage theory from the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guarttari, later further developed by Manuel De Landa. An assemblage is based on the concept of exteriority, that any one component of the assemblage can be unplugged and inserted into another while maintaining its identity. The ‘material’ refers to content and the ‘expressive’ to the roles components can play. For further reading explore: Deleuze, G., and Guattari, F., 2000 (1980). A Thousand Plateaus: Vol 2 Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Brian Massumi. London and New York: Continuum; De Landa, M., 2006. A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. London and New York: Continuum. 22  Gaspar Mallol, M.,2011. F(r)ictions. Design as Cultural Form of Dissent. Paper presented at Design Activism and Social Change conference, organised by the Design History Society, 7-10 September, Barcelona, Spain.


every day. I believe design activists can offer a potent contribution to developing counter-narratives, counter-dialogues and counter-actions which reframe everyday problems as possibilities. Let me demonstrate this sense of agency with some existing examples contesting how we design in public space (Figure 4). Initiated and designed by Zones Urbaines Sensibles (ZUS),23 Luchtsingel is a 350 metre pedestrian bridge which re-connects Rotterdam Central District with the Hofbogen in Rotterdam, the Netherlands (Figure 5). The project is phased over several years, but the first phase was completed in 2012 as part of a wider programme called I Make Rotterdam, an initiative of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam to explore more participatory ways of city-making. Luchtsingel attracted 1300 participants who crowd funded the construction, with each contributor’s name appearing on planks or components of the wooden bridge. Involvement and consensus are at the heart of this project, but is an action intended to positively disrupt the local environs.

Role of design (ers)

UrbanaRecetas ParaSITE

Increasing dissent






Role of other social actors or stakeholders Increasing dissent




Increasing consent


ee gr

A m t


Luchtsingel Increasing consent

Garden of my sister On the Moon

Figure 4. Examples of design activism as ‘spatial agency’.

23  See ZUS and the Luchtsingel project,


Figure 5. Luchtsingel by ZUS, Rotterdam – the opening day. © Ossip van Duivenbode.

Figure 6. An intervention by Collectif

Figure 7. An intervention by Collectif Etc on the

Etc in The Garden of My Sister, Bor-

waste hills at Darcy for the project ‘On the Moon’.

deaux. © Collectif Etc.

© Collectif Etc.

My second case study involves the French direct-action architectural organisation called Collectif Etc,24 formed in 2009. Their projects are numerous, but all involve engaging professionals and citizens in challenging the vertical power structures of contemporary urban space and its planning. They express themselves through the construction of built interventions, street furniture, organisation of meetings and conferences, training workshops, or more artistic interventions (display devices, sculptures, installations). In 2012, they organised the 'Detour de France' along the theme of ‘the civic fabric of the city’, where a group of architects cycled around the country dropping into communities and co-building interventions in public space. These were consensual yet agonist, because they raised serious questions about

24  See Collectif Etc,


Figure 8. Recetas Urbanas (Urban Recipes) © Santiago Cirugeda.

the legal, civic and other issues of public space. Most interventions were part of on-going projects by existing organisations. For example, the building of a public picnic bench in bamboo and wood in Le Jardin de Ma Soeur/The Garden of My Sister on wasteland in Bordeaux (Figure 6). Collectif Etc, members of the garden, a local social group, young people, the Directorate of Parks, Gardens and Rivers and local inhabitants co-built the bench. The reclamation of mine wasteland in the city of Darcy, Les Beaux Monts D’Henin – Les Saprophytes, where the site was directly occupied and the local community galvanised to action under the project title On the Moon (Figure 7). Geodesic buildings and a stairway-come-slide-come-rocket launcher were installed and special community events arranged. They created new perceptions and possibilities for the inhabitants, while raising debate about the near-future planning for these types of civic places that the municipalities have insufficient resources to develop in conventional ways.


A more antagonistic stance is taken by Santiago Cirugeda with his Recetas Urbanas project challenging building and planning regulations (Figure 8.), and Michael Rakowitz focusing on the homeless in Parasites. Recetas Urbanas (Urban Recipes) offers a series of downloadable blueprints for making additions and alterations to housing in urban situations that fall within a grey legal/illegal boundary, prompting reaction, debate and contestation. PARAsites is a series of inflatable shelters for homeless people which Rakowitz designed using transparent or translucent plastic. They could be fixed to any Heating and Ventilation System, using the waste air from public or corporate buildings. Of course, both interventions are also richly agonist in how they bring attention to issues through what Thomas Markussen calls the ‘disruptive aesthetics of design activism’.25 The agency displayed in these case studies of design activism invokes a range of consensual and dissensual activities, at times invoking agreement, agonism and antagonism, but always consistent in the presentation of counter-narratives, counterdialogues and counter-actions.

Urgent areas of inquiry for design activism I think the teleological freedoms of design activism give it licence to explore and probe areas of inquiry that social design might find difficult to go to. For example, we need much more discourse on re-establishing more symbiotic relationships with nature, a ‘sympoiesis’.26 Perhaps, the emergence of ‘bio design’ as a sub-field27 of design provides some focus here, although we should be careful to differentiate between design activists and designers working within the ethical constraints of the technologists and scientists. Better ways of living with nature are especially important as population experts predict that up to 60% of people will live in cities by 2030 and 70% by 205028 continuing the urbanisation trend of the last 300 years and further distancing us from experiencing a natural, as opposed to a ‘humanmade’ environment. As Jane Bennett pointed out in her book Vibrant Matter,29 a more holistic view of materialisation and removal of binary divisions such as human/nature, living/non-living might help us re-think what it means to sustain our lives and build resilient eco-systems, now and in the future. Design activists

25  Markussen, T., 2011. The Disruptive Aesthetics of Design Activism: Enacting Design Between Art and Politics in Nordes’ 11: the 4th Nordic Design Research Conference, Making Design Matter!, 29-31 May 2011, School of Art and Design, Aalto University, Helsinki, pp.102-110. Available at 26  Ibid. Wood. 2013. p.439, Nieuwenjuijze and Wood, 2006, define ‘sympoiesis’ as ‘the more profound stages of co-authorship within team building and in maintaining symbiotic relations’. Here I suggest that ‘humans’ and ‘nature’ can have a sympoiesis to heal the split which has been created by a dominant technologically driven economic growth paradigm which places humans in a largely artificial, synthetic, human-made environment to the exclusion, or exploitation, of nature. 27  See, for example, Myers, W., 2012. Bio Design. Nature, Science, Creativity. Thames and Hudson: London. 28  According to the Global Health Organisation, 29  Bennett, J., 2010. Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of Things. Durham and London: Duke University Press.


are certainly questioning how we can and might have to re-relate with food and its production.30 Those exploring energy generation and conservation, medicine and architecture are challenging our relations with living components. We also know, from recent events in the global economy, that the vast majority of wealth generated during the recovery of national economies is going to the already wealthy people while ordinary citizens’ assets and financial prospects are diminishing.31 Such inequality reveals a serious structural imbalance in governance and fiscal mechanisms. In southern Europe, hit hard by the economic crash of 2008/9, we are witnessing a surge of alternative, often non-monetary, exchange systems, such as time banks, community initiatives and local ‘transition’ currencies.32 These are, perhaps, reflex responses to economic systems that are failing large numbers of people. They involve different forms of exchange, sharing, co-operation and mutualism based on new relationships. This re-relationing is underpinned with emergent new values. We should be raising questions as design activists as to how we can help with these processes — how can we contribute to the growth of ‘alternative economies’ and developing Our Commons,33 or what Elinor Ostrom, in 1990, defined as our ‘common-pool resources’.34 We have some emerging signals from the open design movement,35 from the activities of architects seeking new forms of spatial agency,36 and from the contributors in this book, as to the direction our investigations, provocations and collective actions can take. Those applying design(-ing) need to be cognisant with how they can contribute to alternative models of enterprise which embed equity in the relationships between the stakeholders, human and non-human. They also have to be aware that language and actions of the activists are easily appropriated by neo-liberal forces, so it is essential that design activists are seen as a non-aligned social broker, independent of political power structures and capable of contributing to a positive culture of dissensus.37 This raises questions of how design activists might encourage people to participate in the discourse and acts of dissent. Yanki Lee sees Participatory Design (PD) as being firmly linked

30  See, for example, the biohackers, biomimeticists, urban design agriculturalists and food phreakers at Next Nature,; Futurefarmers,; and the Centre for Genomic Gastronomy, 31  See, for example, Fry, R. and Taylor, P., 2013 A Rise for Wealth of the Wealthy: Decline for the other 93%, 23 April 2013. Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends. Available at 32  ‘Transition currencies’ refer to local money systems to complement national currencies, for example, those created by the Transition Towns movement, such as the ‘Totnes pound’, totnes-pound 33  I have made several blog posts on these topics, see 34  Elinor Ostrom created 18 design principles for governing our commons, i.e. common-pool resources; these were recently extended with seven new principles for our global resource commons by Paul Stern. Stern, P. C., 2011. Design principles for global commons: natural resources and emerging technologies. International Journal of the Commons, 5(2), August 2011, pp.213-232. 35  See van Abel, B., Evers L., Klaassen R. and Troxler, P., 2011, Open Design Now. Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive. BIS Publishers: Amsterdam. 36  See Awan, N., Schneider, T. and Till, J., 2011. Spatial Agency. Other Ways of Doing Architecture. London: Routledge. 37  In his book, The Three Ecologies, originally published in 1989 in French, Felix Guattari wrote about the need for cultivating a dissensus.


with present day meanings of innovation, but Design Participation (DP) as ‘a way of thinking about design’ and its wider roles in society.38 She states that DP can be understood as ‘paralogy’, explained by the philosopher, sociologist and literary theorist Jean-Francois Lyotard as ‘Paralogy must be distinguished from innovation: the latter is under the command of the system, or at least used by it to improve its efficiency; the former is a move (the importance of which is not recognised until later) played in the pragmatics of knowledge. The stronger the ‘move’; the more likely it is to be denied the minimum consensus, precisely because it changes the rules of the game upon which the consensus has been based.’ This suggests design activism is paralogic and that social design is tied to efficacious, incremental innovation that leaves the command of the system intact. While I have positioned design activism as having teleological freedoms beyond that of the current remit of social design, the activist will undoubtedly find actors and stakeholders from both arenas which he/ A CENTRAL TENET OF she can help to smartly re-combine existing design activism is that it resources towards designing preferred situasimultaneously addresses tions.39 However, for me, a central tenet of desocietal issues of concern sign activism is that it simultaneously addresswhile changing the essence es societal issues of concern while changing the essence of what it means to design. These of what it means to design mutual activities will help answer Tomás Maldonado’s call for design to develop a lucid critical social and ecological consciousness to address contingent realities.40 He made this call forty years ago. It is time that the design activists made their ‘moves’ to create a critical mass to positively disrupt our habitus.

38  Lee, Y., 2007. What are the social responsibilities of designers? Investigating new perspectives for design participation. Paper presented at IASDR07, International Association of Societies of Design Research, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, 12th to 15th November 2007. 39  Invoking Herbert Simon’s observation in his 1969 book, Sciences of the Artificial, that design is applied to change existing situations into preferred situations. 40  Maldonado, T., 1972. Design, Nature and Revolution. Toward a Critical Ecology. Translated from Italian by Mario Domandi. New York: Harper & Row. p.50.



Opening party of the co-designed ‘play stage’ in the Wildeman neigbourhood in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. © Nichon Glerum, 2014.

Diana Krabbendam has been working as a designer, editor and cultural entrepreneur in the field of social innovation since 2003. In 2006 she co-founded The Beach, a network of creative innovators with Michiel Schwarz and Jan van Tiel. She also co-authored the Sustainist Design Guide (2013). She studied Graphic Design and Architecture at the University of Arts Utrecht (HKU). Since 1984 she has worked as a designer and creative director for profit and nonprofit clients, which includes time as international design director at Randstad. She also serves as a member of the creative board of the Executive Master in Information Management of the University of Amsterdam. She was a board member of the Premsela Institute of Design and Fashion, Transartists, Young Designers & Industry and Urbaniahoeve. Interviewed by AFL.



The beach, amsterdam with Diana Krabbendam

Could you introduce yourself and talk about key moments in your professional life that have led you to your recent activities? Well, being trained as a designer, and since my father was an architect, I was always in the world of designing things. I was trained as a graphic designer and interior designer and I started working in my profession in the 1980s. It was something else then, because design was about creating functions and functional solutions. So, to me it felt that the whole idea of design was, something a little bit more than that. I felt that design was an attitude, also a ‘can do’ attitude. If it is not there you make it or create it. So, that is what I always took with me. At that time it was more about becoming a professional designer, working as a designer and becoming a partner in a design agency and later working as a design director at a company. I worked for Randstad, an I felt that design was an international temporary staffing company, but attitude, also a ‘can do’ after a while I really didn’t care anymore if their corporate colour was blue or purple or green or attitude. If it is not there whatever. I was more and more thinking, about you make it or create it what am I doing here? But, I also found out it was interesting to use design thinking and designers’ qualities in the process of strategy development. I started thinking about how you can use design thinking in exploring other perspectives on work. So, this was a reason to leave Randstad and start a new kind of journey. When was this? I think this was in 2002. Starting a new journey and finding out what design is all about (laughs)…and I started something I called ‘school’. So, it was just my company or initiatives I called ‘school’, because I thought, well, I have to go back to school and I have to learn a lot again. But, maybe it is a good idea, a lot of people should do that too! So, that’s where it all started.


What did you see this ‘learning again’ as being? What was the learning again you thought you needed to do? Yes, to think about, almost everything, but the most important thing was really ‘value’. What were we doing and why were we doing it? Why is this of any value? Well, of course, you can design to make things beautiful, but why should you make beautiful things that are by heart very wrong or questionable. Looking beautiful is not being beautiful. I had a lot of questions. I saw that a lot of organisations and other people were posing similar questions, so I never felt very alone. I had a strong idea that I should start from scratch and build up something that was, yes, in the first place connecting to myself. At that time there was a lot of development going on. The whole idea of ‘creative industries’, ‘creative cities’, ‘creative anything’ [laughs], was becoming very popular. Did the Dutch design industry use the phrase ‘creative industries’ here? Did it get government backing? It was because Richard Florida published his book.1 A lot of people started talking about the creative industries. Of course, for me it was nothing new because I was part of the creative industries all my life, but it was confusing to a lot of people and so the whole notion that creative development was related to culture, cultural development. In the Netherlands, these were those people that are more two separate worlds. One was the comautonomous and are able to mercial part of the design profession. Yes, explore culture and society are people were working as designers selling their expertise to make things that were very important for innovation commercially interesting. The other was more part of the cultural movement and cultural production. It was more the terrain of artists than designers and there was little interaction between those two worlds. Maybe this is a typical Dutch thing. The cultural part was developing and doing well because of a lot of funding from the government. Those were the drivers for the change, in a sense. Was the government funding an important part for change? For change? No, not for change. The traditional cultural sector was quite comfortable receiving substantial funding from national and local government. What has it been important for? Good question! Of course, in the Arts there are always people exploring the world around, using their skills and expertise to look at the world in another way. It was very convenient to be accepted as a 'cultural designer' and being funded because of this. It is not always positive when people get access to funding too easily. For

1  Florida, R., 2002. The Rise of the Creative Class. London: Basic Books.


me, the important part is that I strongly believe that those people that are more autonomous and are able to explore culture and society are very important for innovation. The designers, organisations and design agencies that are more linked to the business world, might innovate as well, but they are constricted by the conventions of their clients. So, with this new background in 2002, how did your new learning lead you to The Beach?2 Well, I was interested in how we could connect both worlds. Then there was a programme from the government called 'Creative Challenge Call'. It was jointly organised by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. The intention was to stimulate cross-overs between cultural sectors and other sectors. What year was this? I think this was around 2005 - 2006. Then I thought, Yes this is what I am doing, because I am always trying to connect both worlds in the projects I do. And, that time I already knew Michiel Schwarz, and we met again at one of the events that was organised around this call. So we made a joint proposal and got the money. Was the money for a project or for a new agency? No, it was for a project. We got €100 000, which was quite some money. We needed an organisational framework as well, which is when we started The Beach as a Foundation. Then we did the project, made a book, and organised a conference. People were very enthusiastic about it all, so we thought we were doing something relevant. What was the book? It is called In the Landscape of Creative Innovation and it includes some cases. It was more like a book we distributed ourselves, we just gave it to people. We learned a lot from that book when we made the Sustainist Design Guide.3 We never published it officially, we just got it printed. So that gave you confidence? Yes, we thought people liked it. It was the first reason to start an organisation and we started doing a few projects. Then, Michiel left to Berkley, but The Beach was already there. At that time, we were doing that project where we met up and talked with Charles Leadbeater. At that time he was making his book, We-Think.4

2 3  Schwarz, M., and Krabbendam, D., 2013. Sustainist Design Guide. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers. 4  Leadbeater, C., 2008. We-Think. Mass innovation, not mass production. London: Profile Books.


Yes, a lot of the feedback and some of the content and structuration was crowdsourced online? Yes, we gave him some input and he inspired us a lot. And, the ‘beach’ was one of the metaphors he used in his book for new forms of collaboration. That’s why we called ourselves that [The Beach]. Did you have an idea of 'social design' at the time The Beach was formed, were you starting to use this term then? Or, when did that emerge and how in The Beach do you frame social design? Well, we talked more about creative innovation as a counterpart of technological innovation, but we were also aware we talked more about creative that what we did was more related to the innovation as a counterpart of social domain and social design. But we technological innovation were a little bit afraid of using the term 'social design' as it was a little related to the 'soft part', and not seen [then] as relevant for businesses. So, how would you describe The Beach as an agency? Well, we never called ourselves an agency in terms of a studio, or as an institution, but more as a network. We worked very much from our idea that culture, design, creativity, creative innovation should be part of transformation in society and looking for doing things differently. We were not only looking for content, but we were at the same time experimenting with: How do you do it? What’s the process? Who do you involve? How do you make money? In a sense this brings me neatly on to my next questions. One I think is important for people trying to do things differently. How does The Beach operate? How does it start projects, who does it play with, how does it manage the project, how does it measure the outcomes, the outputs and impacts? When we started, it was completely intuitive Yes, that’s how it should be. We were somehow ‘in between’, sometimes it felt like doing things ‘old school’. Not being happy with that we’d try something [different]. We thought that maybe we could find some organisations that would give us assignments that would fit our new approach; those organisations looking for innovation and a ‘cultural shift’. But, I think it was a little bit too naïve. Sometimes, you meet people in organisations that are really good partners and open to these kind of things, but in the end, organisations are often not capable of adapting to such radical new things easily. So, what’s the advice? The advice we gave to ourselves was: Stay away from there, don’t go there. But that was difficult. As a network organisation, our basic cost structure is not very complicated, but you still need some money. So we took this radical decision to stay away from assignments and we started to develop and initiate our own projects.


That is basically what we are doing now. We make programmes, we programme our own projects, and then we find partners who are interested to collaborate. Then, we look for ways to include the ambitions of organisations as well. We’re always trying to match our ambitions with the ambitions of the other parties. So, there is a certain amount of brokerage going on there…? Yes, you are always negotiating. On a European project I’m involved with, called SHIFT (Support Systems for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Transformation), we have developed a term, ‘interagent’, a person or organisation who brings together peoin the end, organisations ple and resources in different ways. We are finding are often not capable of some really interesting characters who don’t play the normal rules. adapting to such radical Actually, we are not against organisations, but our new things easily core activity is to develop new platforms for social innovation. So, if we aim to focus on social innovation, it is fine to work with companies that are doing that as well, but very often their first agenda is something else. Can anybody in your network suggest a project? I notice you have 315 people in your network. What are the mechanisms there? Sometimes people know us. It can be companies, artists, or designers who think The Beach could be a great partner to do something together. That’s what happens. In 2012, we decided to focus more on the neighbourhood we are located in and to work with the people there. We realised building relationships takes a lot of time and it is a hard thing to do. Therefore it is a good thing to find people that are close to you. Is this a good way for anybody with social intentions to think about working locally where they live? Well, to me, it works well that we don’t live there but still are present there for at least five days a week, sometimes more. Of course, we are experimenting with it. People from the neighbourhood come by, just for a talk or to share an idea or something else with us. So you have a physical presence there? Yes. Being there is important, people start trusting you more. It becomes easier to work with other organisations located in the neighbourhood, because they feel like we are related because we all aim to contribute to the neighbourhood. We are trying to learn from what we are doing in this local setting to try and build up a case we can share, exchange and build up a new kind of expertise. Then it becomes more than just one local project.


What sort of design activities do you do in these projects? What kind of activities that you regard as design activities? Some people use the words ‘design devices’, interventions, or tools, processes. All kinds of activities. We design almost everything, a lot of processes, but in the end we also have this programme called Makers +co.5 We design things that become visible, as well as recognisable solutions, processes and functional kinds of things. Like a playground that was initiated and made by people in the neighbourhood. They asked, “How can we make things ourselves and with our children?” So they asked us to do a co-creation project with them. We call the people in the neighbourhood ‘neighbourhood experts’, not people who need help. We see them as experts of their own lives and neighbourhoods. However, sometimes they need other experts to do things, to make projects. So, would it be true to say that a lot of the design activities are actually trying to bring in other people’s knowledge in a new combination. Yes, yes. I think what these facilitation design processes can offer is very powerful. Yes, and it is not only facilitating but it is also really co-creating. Because when we are co-creating we are creating processes, but also contributing our design skills (ideation, brainstorming, visualising and so on). Sometimes it is also our role to give some space to people that do not feel comfortable, yet help them bring their ideas in. Our role may be the difference. So, how do you start measuring the project? It could be Makers+co, or indeed your Sustainist Design Guide. There are certain tangible outputs. How do you get a sense of the impact you’ve made? It is a tough question for a person like me, because I am not very good at measuring in this quantifying way. What we are good at is sharing a lot because we document our projects. Writing reports, making small videos, photos and we publish it immediately on our website or on Facebook so people can 'like it'. They like it more than we expected. It is a way of being on top of it and seeing how people value the things we do. It is a sense that you are showing the positive impacts, being actioned and doing something. Is it a trickle impact, is it continuous? Yes, it is more than just measuring and reporting, it is also part of something new, inspiring and activating people. It’s part of the whole process.



That’s good. We might quantify things… as someone said the other day ‘Return on Giving’ (ROG). The process is part of the impact. Yes, absolutely. And, we should be getting better at measuring this….. Yes. It is also part of the process that we don’t exactly know where we are going. Of course, we have an idea of where we want to go, but it changes. Sometimes something, brilliant ideas come up and we say this needs priority and then, something that looked very great fades away because someone is moving to another place. Is this a key skill? You almost have a listening process where you are prepared to change when you come to a fork in the road, so you have an automatic evolutionary brief, which is scary to some. In a commercial design practice the gates are very clear. To some people it is really scary. And for that reason it is sometimes hard to get funding. Sometimes, we have to cheat a little bit because we say: this is what we going to do, give us the money. Then, half-way we say: “Well, sorry, we changed the project a little bit”. Yeah, of course it works. Can we challenge mindset and say that there is intrinsic value in these processes, and if these processes are being applied and even if we cannot measure the impacts exactly, there are some impacts. Yes, of course we are looking at what we are doing and we are not just doing things. We do care about what happens. So we look back, we try to evaluate, and we are experimenting with some research as well. How would that be built into the next project then? When you learn something from one project, how do you make sure this transference of learning from previous projects to the next? We are always thinking about continuity. When we started these projects, we already thought that we should make a website or a place that can evolve, where we can build, where we can make and create new infrastructure. And I remember something you said when we were at the Vluchtkerk,6 you said, “Well, changing the situation also means changing design briefs”. After a project, something always comes out of it, but it can be the start of something completely new with a completely new brief. You are looking to build some sort of capacity or something of a longer term nature. Rather than just from brief to brief, project to project, you are actually capacity

6  The Beach and the interviewer, Alastair Fuad-Luke, ran a co-design workshop with refugees sheltering in the Vlutchtkerk, Amsterdam in April 2013. The workshop gathered stories on bread-making from different cultures and explored designing ‘new types of bread’ and the possibility of setting up a bread shop.


building somewhere. And capability building, maybe like Amartya Sen’s idea of capability,7 you are trying to raise the capability of the communities and people you work with. Yes, that is what we do a lot. Maybe this could be another way to address funders and say, look, we are enabling people and giving them capability. When we make a programme with our projects, some of them are long-term but most are no longer than a year, or maybe two years. People start thinking about the projects and they become part of your movement. They start coming with ideas. In your estimation, what has the Sustainist Design Guide achieved here in Amsterdam and internationally? Well, we noticed two things. It becomes much clearer to people what we are doing. People think back and say, “Ah, now I understand what you are doing”. So that’s good. But it is also opening up real collaborations and connections. People in academia are interested. Many are looking at social innovations and asking what social design is about. The book is providing people with some basic knowledge they didn’t find before. Especially from this lens, the cultural perspective, and thinking about what kind of qualities are behind it. It is a new way of thinking for a lot of people, and bringing the debate about social design to another level. I think that is the great thing we did with the book and why it has been a success. We are talking about eleven years since you had this epiphany, set up The Beach and you have some projects under your belt. Things are happening, but what do you do next? We are in this transition, and a lot of people are looking at how to do things differently, in almost every sector or world, in neighbourhoods, in education, companies, it is happening everywhere. We think we should play a role in the processes where people are struggling with how to deal with this kind of transformation. So, we help people look through this cultural lens. We help them with how to act and to co-create new processes, new places, and new circumstances. We are looking at the possibility of a 'School of Sustainist Design'. People ask us to do workshops and projects, but we need more focus on further development so we’d like to work on this in the next two years. Do you see a formal organisation where some thinking and learning could happen? Within your neighbourhoods and your partners, they have also got expertise now.

7  The capability approach (also referred to as the capabilities approach) is an economic theory conceived in the 1980s by Amartya Sen which brings together a range of ideas that were hitherto excluded from (or inadequately formulated in) traditional approaches to the economics of welfare. The core focus of the capability approach is on what individuals are able to do, that is what they are capable of doing. Source: adapted from wiki/Capability_approach


Could this be a learning platform here? I don’t know, it is too early yet. We are now more aware that we should develop formal methods and content to offer to formal organisations, academies, and universities, but it could manifest as something else. It seems to me there is a lot of learning not only within The Beach and its networks but within the situations. Actually a lot of people have done a lot of learning together. How could this be packaged up and formalised, made useful to others? That’s the whole point isn’t it? Yes, yes. Maybe we can connect to other parties that are also looking to share more of this kind of expertise we are developing. Would this maybe be a new pedagogy of social design practice? It’s more like wiki learning, learning through reading and contributing to wikis.8 I don’t know yet, but it can be a more open kind of sharing. But, in a way, it should be recognisable. We are aware of what our contribution can be, it is something that might be bigger than this. I think this is the tension in open learning, the degree of formalisation and the degree of ‘informalisation’. We see a lot of institutions struggling with this formal part. They want to become accepted academic institutions [but] we need to do all kind of things that are not our first aim. It is still in the old world. Is the old world acting fast enough? Do we need more experimental modes of learning? Yes, so we can be a good partner to work on projects and programmes, maybe a little bit more innovative than the rest of the programmes. That’s fine with us. I worry about how fast academia is able to develop its curriculum. For a lot of courses and modules it is not a quick process, it is a three to five year timescale. That’s a long time for contemporary adaptations in society. Yes, so maybe it is not the first thing we should do, to try to catch up with academia. No, maybe it’s about trying to find a new way to transfer the knowledge that exists there. I come back to your communities, neighbourhoods and partners you work with. Isn’t there knowledge already here? Yes, there is. That’s one of the things that would be great to focus on for our NieuwWest Expeditie project. Now we are also starting up a programme where we share

8  A wiki is an application, typically a web application, which allows collaborative modification, extension, or deletion of its content and structure. Source: Perhaps one of the most well known examples of wiki learning is Wikipedia.


our knowledge with four other initiatives in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. There are some projects which are similar to what we are doing, at least these similarities are interesting to share. And, there we try to exchange information and learn from each other. It is a good idea to measure a little bit more the learning part. I think this learning in the field is fascinating. Maybe we are only just beginning to learn how to record it, how to make it useful to the next project? Maybe, we need some extra things to do this properly. It is experiential learning. What are the big challenges to you in this whole way design is being embedded into the social arena? It has become seen as a useful thing for cultural change. What do you see on the optimistic side and what do you see as the challenges? There is a lot of debate now about the role of the Arts in social innovation and especially in the development of neighbourhoods. There’s the gentrification9 debate: How far should designers encourage gentrification of the neighbourhood and make money for the government or property development Our idea is that we can companies? So, how social is it anyway? To us, it is contribute to a more dem- a recognisable situation because a lot of artists and ocratic society by involv- designers go to places. They start living and working and including people ing there, and of course, they contribute to a new kind of image of the neighbourhood. That’s what is instead of excluding them happening, it is a cycle. When you are doing social design like we do, how far are we capable of activating the people that are part of it? Our idea is that we can contribute to a more democratic society by involving and including people instead of excluding them. Sometimes, those organisations like housing corporations are interested in what you are doing for completely different reasons. So, there is a natural tension in working with partners? Having to satisfy a core interest of other partners, is that a challenge? Yes, it is very political what we are doing. We are taking the side of the people who are weaker to help them take their fair share, because we are looking for fairness. That’s what we design. But, it is not always the aim of the government or the organisations that pay our funding. I think that is the kind of situation we are in. Can you predict in the near-future, say the next five years, how perceptions of this kind of designing in the social arena might change? I think it is important to talk about the ‘civic political’ condition and not the condition of politics. I don’t see there is an immediate threat, but I think it needs our attention a lot. 9  Gentrification is the development of poor urban areas by investment from local or national government, property developers and individual house owners which results in a rise in property prices that can result in excluding the original citizen inhabitants from remaining in the area.


The playground design is an initiative of children and their parents. The co-design of a ‘play stage’ is part of making a play landscape in the Wildeman neigbourhood in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. Co-designers are 25 children, their parents and The Beach with Mira de Graaf, Maartje Dros, Breg Hansen.© Mira de Graaf, 2013.


And, on the optimistic side? What could be good in the next five years and might accelerate this way of designing? Possibly, designing and making things will help a lot of people to be part of this civic political arena. I am more positive about it than I am negative about it, but I am aware it can take a lot of energy, our energy. Do you have an advice on energy conservation for the socially conscious designer? (laughs) Yes, also for this reason it’s good to work in a local setting because that’s where you belong, that’s where the energy is generated, and you need a lot of it. We felt a lot of good energy when we did a project with people in the neighbourhood, people are enthusiastic and that in turn empowers us. A lot of energy is needed for the necessary debate we have with people, the city government, companies and others. That’s very good advice, because for years I never worked in my local community. It was the most rewarding work. I helped raise their capability, and they simultaneously raised mine, then we successfully applied for grant monies so we could all get paid. Yes, that’s what they started telling us, “We want to pay you”, that's true. And now we are talking about really poor people, but they are very aware of the potential benefits that projects can bring. How do you see this difficult question of ‘agency’, being an ‘agent’? Do you regard yourself as an agent of change, an agent of alternatives? Maybe this is related to the role of infrastructure, because it is something I’m struggling with as well. What is infrastructure? When does something become part of amplifying, accelerating, energising a neighbourhood? I don’t know. It depends on how you are able to inspire as an agent, as an agency. Our part in the whole thing is that we have some expertise we can share. That is where it all starts. And, of course, our will. Our will and expertise, I think. We share our expertise and apply our will to shaping infrastructure, but it is quite daunting. I’d like to introduce another word, ‘micro-structure’, stimulated by our conversation. I like John Wood’s words, ‘attainable micro-utopias’10 because we can have a utopian dream, but in the end it might remain just that if we can’t initiate something. If we have a micro-utopia it is an achievable thing. Infrastructure is embedded over historic time, but micro-structures can change quite quickly. It is a good word. Maybe it is part of the answer I’m looking for. The whole idea of infrastructure is so related to complex systems and that is not where we are looking for change.



Wood, J., 2007. Design for Micro-Utopias. Making the Unthinkable Possible. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.

Well, maybe we just find a lot of new adjectives to put in front of the word ‘structure’, micro-structure, inter-structure…? We talk about fabric, making a new fabric, so it is more about weaving, how to weave fabric. That’s something that is coming out in the [AoA] book actually…these areas of living and working. People are making new relationships, it is a new form of weaving society. It is weaving societal nodes. That is another word, ‘nodes’, creating nodes… is that maybe what you call micro-structures? You are talking about having a critical consciousness about all the design work you do. I hear this criticality in how you are reflecting continuously. Yes, we do this. We are in the process of transformation, it goes so fast. I think it is important to be reflective all the time. It is difficult to step out of the process, isn’t it? Yes, but then it is great to have a person to talk to like you and Michiel Schwarz who is always taking distance, so he is a great person to reflect on what we are doing. And I like to go in and out. Too many people are not reflecting enough, so it is a role to take. And, I like it. Maybe we should lobby for some reflective, iterative money? Yes, that’s a good idea. It is the hardest money to get. I don’t know why but it is! We try to get money for real projects and the iterative, reflective things are what we invest on top of it. Thank you for all your time and thoughts!


The main pavilion. Š ESKYIU.

Bring Your Own Biennale (BYOB) is a catchphrase, framework, and approach envisioned to stimulate our collective role in the creation of an innovative Bi-City Biennale between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China. The 2009 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture marked the first cultural event of international scale to take place at the future West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong from 4 December 2009 to 27 February 2010. The site of the West Kowloon hosted 46 000 square metres of over eighty exhibitions, more than forty-nine events/forums, with over thirty schools participating, showcasing an open platform composed of inventive works and thought-provoking installations, experiments, workshops and performances that engaged the public in rethinking the society that they are part of. Eric Schuldenfrei and Marisa Yiu are Founding Partners of ESKYIU, a multi-disciplinary architecture studio in Hong Kong. Eric is a designer who focuses on the evolving relationship between architecture, animation, technology and art. Marisa is an architect who integrates multi-disciplinary design, culture and spatial agency.

Case Study

Bring Your Own Biennale (BYOB) by Eric Schuldenfrei and Marisa Yiu

Purpose/aim of the project: During this process-driven Biennale we started to build a new type of audience — not as spectators, but as an audience of authors and contributors. BYOB illuminates and inspires a reassessment of our collective values by building productive dialogues across the disciplines. We sought to question the kinds of contemporary conditions unique to this region, and if they can elevate new ways of addressing social sustainability in its various forms. In the projects we engaged hundreds of school children to a broader demographic for an event engaging 1,000 elderly members from the local community. It was a large communal feast and festival called the ‘Pun Choi’ where we celebrated the Chinese New Year event with communal eating. We effectively had the Biennale event with 200 circular tables to also promote large gatherings and the social well-being of the elderly within a context of the Biennale. In working with local community chapters and non-profit organisations the event reinvented the context of tradition and contemporary culture integrated in one setting. Names of people involved: Curatorial team: Marisa Yiu (Chief Curator), Eric Schuldenfrei (Curator for Exhibition, Education, Film, and Media), Alan Lo (Curator for Arts, City Integration, and Events) and Frank Yu, (Curator for Architecture, Urbanism and Landscape). And over eighty exhibitors. Key stakeholders: The commissioners were the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, the Hong Kong Institute of Planners, the Hong Kong Designers Association, and the principal sponsor was the Home Affairs Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government. However, in terms of partnerships and collaborators we had universities, youth federation groups, and non-profit organisations such as the Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design1 who were instrumental in supporting

1  In 2006, Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design was established as a non-profit and registered charity by a group of individuals from Hong Kong’s design community committed to capturing the creative imagination of the public. The organisation is funded in part by grants from the Hong Kong government, private donations and fundraising activi-


various activities and community outreach. We also had a network comprising lighting companies, education sponsors, and event partners, including radio stations supporting coverage of our events. Geographic location: A sensitive and contentious area of reclaimed land facing Victoria harbour, near the centre of Hong Kong and empty for more than ten years sets the tone for the curatorial theme. We were very fortunate to have access to this empty site, and now it is undergoing transformation and rapid construction for the new Museum and Chinese Opera House which is part of the upcoming new cultural district, the West Kowloon Cultural District. Supported by: Funding was provided by the Hong Kong government and many generous supporters. Start date/Finish date: 3 December 2009 – 27 February 2010. Website or other online source: and

BEGINNING What triggered the project? There was an open call for curators for the 2009 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture. As a cooperative cultural event that is shared by the two cities under a Bi-City thematic, we were selected to serve as the curators for Hong Kong after being shortlisted by a committee organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA), the Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP), and the Hong Kong Designers Association (HKDA). Embarking on the Biennale preparation on 25 June 2009, the opening events were held on 3 December 2009. The 2009 Hong Kong Biennale’s principal sponsor was the Home Affairs Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government, in celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of China. What was your motivation? Hong Kong’s rapid transformation has produced a culture of the ‘instant’, where desires, market forces, global-local exchanges, technologies, and a need for immediate gratification dominate our cultural landscape and social behaviours. The Biennale brought together a multitude of voices from the design, architecture, planning, and arts community to examine this situation as a general provocation. Our motivation was also to create a Biennale to engage various international and local audiences in order to build participation and to test ideas. For example, we had local students construct projects, we had Elizabeth Diller discussing the best


practices learned from designing the High Line in New York, where she said ‘We originally thought of ourselves as the architects of the High Line, but later saw ourselves as the architects that prevented and preserved the High Line, defending it from architecture’.2 Are there similar projects, did these stimulate you and are you linked to them in any way? As a Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture, there was a partner site in Shenzhen, China which had its own exhibitions and curators. Events were cross listed between the venues in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. How did the idea evolve? We had participated in many Biennales before and as curators we sought to continue our crucial role as cultural provocateurs by questioning regional values, cultural consumption, architecture and the environment, as well as global pressures that all cities currently face. We also wanted to create an architecture Biennale that was contextual to the site, and the terrain of the West Kowloon site which is now being prepared to become Asia’s next large scale cultural district. What were key organisational aspects and organisational structures? Marisa Yiu (Chief Curator), Eric Schuldenfrei (Curator for Exhibition, Education, Film, and Media), Alan Lo (Curator for Arts, City Integration, and Events), and Frank Yu (Curator for Architecture, Urbanism and Landscape).

ACTING & DOING What are or were the key activities? Bring Your Own Biennale (BYOB) is a catchphrase, framework, and approach envisioned to stimulate our collective role in the creation of an innovative Bi-City Biennale between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China. It calls for individual participation and networked collaboration — working within and outside boundaries to generate unexpected results. BYOB makes the process of cultural production transparent, an approach that relies on the citizens and the city’s infrastructure for our Bi-City engagement. It is at once contextual but also reflective, a unique opportunity to speculate on what our impact on the metropolis could be. Our Biennale’s central location in the future West Kowloon Cultural District provides an open platform for dialogue. By inviting inventive practices onto the site,

ties. The organisation works with its sister organisation, the Hong Kong Design Centre, towards the common goal of promoting design and culture and generating enthusiasm for creative ventures. More info: 2  This quote is referenced to a forum we held at the Biennale called “On Trees: Social Sustainability” held on 3 December 2009 and from Schuldenfrei, E., and Yiu, M., 2011. INSTANT CULTURE: Architecture and Urbanism as a Collective Process. Hong Kong: MCCM Creations. p.75.


we build upon people’s interest and their participation to formulate this Biennale. Our Biennale is not a frozen, definitive statement comprised of vacant representations of architecture — but alive with debate, events, and activities inspired from decidedly ‘performative’ (experimental and self-reflexive) practices. The Hong Kong component of the Bi-City Biennale is about creating fresh tools and new ways of working, about designing intelligence, and appropriating mechanisms that deal with direct feedback to engage the public. This concept of ‘public’ is diverse, and we embrace this diversity in the ownership of space, where public good, public space, and the public domain can be re-conceptualised. Thus BYOB asks: “How is public culture defined? Who has the right to experience, conceptualise, and control culture?” In essence, we are publishing a real-time ‘Users Manual’ for this diversity, where the West Kowloon promenade site becomes a backdrop for creative speculation and dynamic ingenuity. We learn from people, from nature, and from our daily interactions. We are inspired by everyday practices, appreciate the informality and spontaneity that rubs up against the rigid, the formal, and the planned. Here we create ephemera and use weblogs as social levellers to share and exchange information in order to generate new models and paradigms that fully embrace the creative cultural practice of architecture, art and urbanism. We seek to examine the issue of sustainability not only from a material vantage but also from a social one. Respecting sensitive ecologies, we not only look towards the organic farm, the wind farm, the solar farm, and the compost heap, but we intend to use our modest gains appropriately by generating socially sustainable work practices. What are or were the key approach & methods? A few highlighted examples of the approach included the curatorial open call for design proposals, which resulted in a large number of submissions where many previously undiscovered designers were selected. Afterwards we received a few notes of thanks, since several very young designers at the Biennale had been selected for prestigious awards as a direct result of their work created for the Biennale. One group of young female architects working in various large corporate firms in Hong Kong explained how their installation, The Projecting Window, was an outlet to voice their work alongside the more established local and international architects. Two Wongs Going to Sea involved a fearless intervention into the harbour, while simultaneously bringing a sense of humour to the site. Yet, the event was a performative appraisal of the serious problems we face with housing in Hong Kong, questioning both the accessibility of the waterfront and public open space within the city. This added another dimension, becoming a type of social commentary, as well as a way of understanding the laws that govern the event and their legal consequences. Another highlight was the collective day-to-day construction of the Biennale with volunteers and professionals. How did you get people participating? Participation began even before the Biennale opened to the public. As one exhibi-


tion was being prepared, the Eco Farm, the curators brought in youth groups from various districts to jointly build a large farm with organic vegetables. We observed the awe in the eyes of the students who had grown up in the dense urban environment of Hong Kong, enthusiastically sowing seeds and digging their hands into the fresh soil for the first time ever. They were shocked to discover that this vast, open public space in the centre of the city was actually available to them. The same students returned later to harvest the crops and eventually made different types of salads out of the locally grown produce. A majority of the children brought their modular, paper-pulp farm boxes back into their small apartments to continue micro-farming at a domestic scale. What is/was essential for practical matters? Volunteers and the active participation of the general public became the most important aspects that allowed the Biennale to come to life. By opening the site up to individuals who wished to use it for different purposes, we were able to create a different idea of what the site could become Volunteers and the active for the city. An example of this can be seen in participation of the general the Forest Project by the artist Xu Bing, which sought to restore Kenya’s forests by fundraising public became the most selling children's drawings of trees. Teaching loimportant aspects cal students how to draw on the Biennale site allowed the exhibition to serve as a classroom, with the art collection constantly growing during the time of the Biennale. The students learned skills in a creative environment, while at the same time volunteers helped to teach and guide them. What are/were the key communication channels and methods? Revealing the predominant priorities of the Hong Kong public in relation to our collective creative culture, the overall program of the Biennale indirectly called attention to human and social behaviour. Due to limited resources to properly document the numerous overlapping activities occurring on the site, we decided to create an open call for photographers to freely take pictures and upload them on our social media platforms. Something of note is the culture of vanity in one sense, for people loved to take their own portraits (‘selfies’) and sent in pictures with incessant self-adoration. We optimised this for ourselves, where activities were documented that we could not capture, and as a result we now continuously collaborate with various talented photographers who contribute their time documenting other cultural events across the city. We wonder whether the dense condition of urban living, where severe lack of space is the norm, accounts for the common pleasure in focusing on activities one can efficiently collect in a highly confined space. In Hong Kong creative expression is often via cameras, where photography and film have become the dominant art forms. There is so much skill and talent in the everyday visual culture to work with, offering potential areas for articulating a greater collective experience.







[1] BYOB © ESKYIU. [2] Xu Bing HK Biennale © Makin Fung Bing Fai. [3] TwoWongs Going to Sea © Makin Fung Bing Fai. [4] Hole InThe Wall © Syren Johnstone.

Media use and efficacy? The wide range of the actives occurring on the site resonated well with the media. In addition to working with online platforms, blogs and print media, the importance of participants at the site directly inviting their own crowd cannot be overlooked. A musician inviting an audience, a unique three-way football match drawing in spectators, a film screening, or a forum on social sustainability, each drew different types of audiences to the site. The communication of one individual to another became a form of mediated encounter. Since the activities on the Biennale site changed daily, the ability for the mass media to analyse and interpret the activities became a productive way to allow the overall exhibition to remain relevant and germane. Even before it opened and long after it officially concluded, there was a succession of events that made the general public aware of the Biennale. What are/were the outcomes with reference to the target audience? By dynamically engaging the public we learned directly from our own community, discovered conscientious models of design, and showcased the collection of exemplars. Interdisciplinary design competitions sought to produce enduring selfsufficient systems, to develop urban prototypes as instruments to drive further engagement with a renewed focus on socially progressive models. We developed a series of BYOB graphics that were the identity of the events, but made in a bilingual manner, so that local Cantonese speaking audiences and English communities could both engage with the graphic identity. What are/were the impacts - target audience and wider? Most significant is the critical role of the individual, that is, our individual voice and our independent judgment as designers, curators, pedagogues, and creative or productive citizens. The Biennale observed subtle details in the How do the urban environment: rediscovering the harbour’s edge, redesigning individual and the the park, encouraging more street activity, recalling the significance collective relate of the sidewalk and the growth of grass. How do the individual and to each other? the collective relate to each other? How can we debate the social and cultural value of the ‘city’, the ‘urban plan’, ‘architecture’, ‘artefacts’, and ‘products’ in this complex negotiation? How can architecture and the making of cities highlight the nuances of elitism and populism? Can low and high culture be used proactively? Architecture must communicate openness, transparency, and perform as active social registers, if not enlightened apparatuses.

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is/was the project sustained? Every Biennale so far has had a different site, different curatorial theme led by an appointed set of curators. The Biennale continues at different sites within Hong


Kong every two years, with a new curatorial team for each edition. The first one took place in an old colonial police station and prison, ours took place in an open field on the waterfront of Hong Kong’s harbour. The recent ones have taken place in a public park and also an urban redevelopment site. The Hong Kong Biennale is organised by different governmental agencies and so is Shenzhen’s; effectively future editions may also explore different forms and methods of collaboration. What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? The idea of social capital is critical. Without a city full of people willing to volunteer their time, expertise, and energy, the scale of the Biennale would have been impossible. By serendipity we were armed with innocence, ambition, and inquiry, with a desire for innovation and support from countless committed individuals who all acknowledged a much-needed reclamation of the cultural landscape of Hong Kong, which in turn transformed the numerous burdens into nimble and effective collaborations. In terms of financial capital we had funding from the government and the rest from public support by means of in kind donations, and support from a large variety of local non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Is it self-sustaining now or will it be in the future? It is self-sustaining for now in terms of support from various agencies and private organisations. Future editions are unknown, in terms of self-sustaining model, as most Not-For-Profit (NFP) cultural-based events in Hong Kong have always been based on one-off government grants, so this requires that curatorial teams can extend their work beyond individual projects. Are you happy with the project? To constantly anticipate the unknown is something we experienced in a compressed and reactionary way throughout the five months of preparation time for the Biennale, a process which continued during the three-month long exhibition period. This experience conjures up mixed emotions of defeat, success, failure, and breakthrough as we retroactively evaluate the projects. Yet, we continuously look back at our experience to strategise and propose alternate ways of establishing cultural events at large. Two years after the Biennale we published a book entitled Instant Culture: Architecture and Urbanism as a Collective Process.3 The book includes writings and contributions by Shigeru Ban, Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten, Lars Nittve, Raymond Fung, Stan Allen, Daniel Chua, MAP office, Tao Zhu, Ackbar Abbas, Paul Katz, Andrew Lee, Xu Bing, John Batten, Dan Wood, Amale Andraos, Rocco Yim, K.S. Wong, Eric Schuldenfrei, Marisa Yiu and many more. The book also catalogues the exhibitions and events including educational tours and forum highlights that

3  ibid. Schudlenfrei and Yiu, 2011.


took place during the Biennale. Themes are organised around topics of cultural advocacy, social sustainability, education, participatory protocols and future creative urban infrastructure. We see this book as documentation but also as a future projection on the role of culture and the city in this region. Would you change anything? For a city like Hong Kong, in the context of China and the world, can events be done in a more seamless way, with improved planning? Is the quick and rapid response the normative practice, where the unplanned is a given and immediacy a fact? Does this ensure quality? If so, then how should one work within this constraint? Do we accept limitations or challenge the system? Where does one find long-term support from the right organisations to secure a forward-thinking and innovative mindset? Can resources be committed and built-in well beforehand, so curators and exhibitors do not need to constantly fight for funding and resources to realise work? Was the project as you expected or did you encounter anything unexpected? Many have asked us how we measure success. Is this what you expected? Although we had to count the attendance of visitors and participants in official reports, submit our audited accounts and record the press coverage, for us this was not so important. We believe cultural exhibitions and Biennales are ways to touch and impact society, altering preconceptions of what architecture and urbanism is and should be. Events like this must be provocatively meaningful for society. Is the project scalable? The concept is easily scalable, since it only depends on the willingness of the population to participate. In dense urban environments, finding the free space is always a challenge, but if there is the support of the local governEvents like this ment, space can usually be found in transitional sites that must be provocatively are available in almost every city. There is often land or a building that will eventually be used for another purpose, meaningful for society but in the meantime it could be applied to a cultural use. It is these opportunities that we find compelling, since it makes the most out of the resources that already exists. What are your future plans? Looking ahead we only wish for more, to see architecture and the city support a socially sustainable ecology that coexists with innovation and respect for our cultural heritages and contemporary aspirations. These are not mutually exclusive, as the culture of architecture and urbanism shapes the values of our society, and the culture of our community shapes the architecture and urbanism that surround us. We anticipate further challenges in this instant culture of dynamic exchange, and we only have even greater expectations for events to come.


OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? The Biennale had eighty-three exhibitors; 81,721 visitors over a period of three months; over thirty-six events; over thirty schools and 2,000 students participating in the event; over 130 educational tours; thirteen forums; over 180 media coverage, inclusive of BYOB listing. What capacity did you build? How did you change people’s lives? This Biennale aspired to celebrate ownership and make oneself accountable in the design of one’s very own Biennale. We believe that a sincere process creates stronger provocations. Many of the local younger designers who participated in the Biennale went on to exhibit work internationally. By producing opportunities to produce and develop work that engages the community, the Biennale extended the cultural capacity within Hong Kong. Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? The project provoked many new ideas and initiatives. It met the immediate purpose of providing a platform for the Biennale and went beyond our original intentions by suggesting other approaches to take in order to better use the city.

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned? Looking back at the exceptional opportunities afforded by the unique site of BYOB makes us wonder about the critical need for a large urban backyard to improve the quality of life within Hong Kong, for the government to allot far more natural leisure places for children and families. Open space is needed for urban release due to dense living and working conditions, yet, the inaccessibility of large open spaces has also proved challenging. Most importantly, this urban landscape needs an urgent rethinking of resource availability if it is going to serve as a platform for creative and cultural engagement. What can be given as advice for the readers? One way of working that we were impressed by was Hong Kong’s willingness to provide land for the Biennale and the commitment to make change to cultural activities in the city. We were given a relatively small site to begin with, but on requesting for underused land adjacent to our site, we were able to accommodate far more activists and events. We believe in requesting to better use the city-owned land, to take ownership of a part of the city, even if it is only for a brief moment in time.


Neighbourhood Labs aims at researching and supporting socio-material infrastructures2 on which urban collectives can operate on and evolve. The nucleus of this project is the Berlin neighbourhood Fischerinsel, characterised by high-rise apartment buildings. The project questions whether design can foster civic engagement, break down communicative boundaries and deliver tools for changing the social and political situation. Jennifer Schubert is a scientific researcher and PhD candidate at the Design Research Lab of the University of the Arts Berlin (UdK) and part of the research group ‘Civic Infrastructures’. In her PhD she focusses on ‘Civic tools for social and political participation in urban neighboorhoods’. Andreas Unteidig is an interaction designer and research associate with the Design Research Lab at UdK. He is part of the research group ‘Civic Infrastructures’ and develops tools and processes to provide access to public discourses for a wide range of individuals and groups. In his research he is interested in the novel roles for Design in a technologically and socially changing understanding of ‘the city’.

Florian Sametinger is a researcher, designer and lecturer at the Design Research Lab of the UdK. His work revolves around participatory design approaches to sustainability research and the impact of designed infrastructures on urban neighbourhoods. Bianca Herlo is a researcher at the Design Research Lab at UdK, and curator of the German-Israeli project: Community Now? Conflicts, Interventions, New Publics. She is a lecturer at the Kunsthochschule Weißensee, the BTK Hamburg and the UdK Berlin. Malte Bergmann is the coordinator of the German Society for Design Theory and Research (DGTF). He is currently writing his doctoral thesis in the context of the German-Israelis: Community Now? Conflicts, Interventions, New Publics. Gesche Joost is professor for Design Research at the Berlin University of the Arts, and since 2005 she is heading the Design Research Lab. With international partners, she developed research and teaching projects in the areas of human-computer-interaction, gender and diversity aspects in technological development, as well as social sustainability and participation. In 2014, she was appointed Germany’s Digital Champion for the European Commission.

Case Study

Neighbourhood Labs by the Design Research Lab Berlin1 (Jennifer Schubert, Andreas Unteidig, Florian Sametinger, Bianca Herlo, Malte Bergmann, Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost), Berlin University of the Arts

Purpose/aim of the project: The purpose of the project is the participatory development and design of infrastructures, in which citizens are empowered to tackle issues concerning their real life contexts and their neighbourhoods. One main aspect for making this comprehensible is the notion of the 'Publics' according to John Dewey,3 which comes into being when individuals or groups organise around issues and concerns in order to influence them or their consequences. In line to that, we aim at providing infrastructures for citizens as empowering frameworks in the improvement of their very own social fabric in their respective local settings. Hence, the project aims at designing infrastructures that enable and foster selforganised collaboration on central issues in and within the living environment of the acting subjects. Names of people involved: Design Research Lab, Civic Infrastructures Research Cluster,4 Berlin University of the Arts; Kreativhaus e.V.,5 Seniors-Computer-Club Berlin-Mitte (SCC).6 Key stakeholders: We, as a group of Design Researchers, started collaborating with the Seniors-Computer-Club Berlin-Mitte (SCC) and successively opened up our

1  The main goal of the Design Research Lab at the Berlin University of the Arts is to mediate the gap between technological innovations and people’s real needs in their everyday living environment. See: 2  Pelle, E., 2008. Participation in Design Things. In PDC 2008, Experiences and Challenges, Proceedings of the tenth anniversary conference on Participatory Design 2008, Bloomington, Indiana, USA, October 1-4, 2008. S.l:ACM. pp.92101. See: 3  Dewey, J., 1927. The Public and its problems. Ohio: Ohio University Press. 4  The overarching goal of the interdisciplinary research cluster is to investigate the role of design in fostering social relations and political discussions in an urban context. We investigate social, political and technological means which enable citizens to address relevant issues. It is very much connected to a pragmatic approach to investigating the different perspectives of sustainability, of the possibilities of empowerment and of fostering infrastructures for participation, 5  The Kreativhaus is a multigenerational house and theatre/pedagogical centre located at the Fischerinsel. It is also the parent organisation of the Seniors-Computer-Club Berlin-Mitte. See: 6  The Seniors-Computer-Club Berlin-Mitte is an initiative in which seniors teach seniors Information and Communication Technology (ICT) knowledge. See


project to their greater neighbourhood and local residents. We located our monthly meetings in the building of the Kreativhaus to demonstrate the openness and independence of our project. Geographic location: The project is being conducted in the Fischerinsel neighbourhood in Berlin-Mitte, the Southern part of the Museum Island in Berlin. Supported by: Berlin University of the Arts and different smaller sources, like the prize money of the Lübeck Neighbourhood Award the project won in 2013. Start date/Finish date: 2010 – on-going. Website or other online resource:,

BEGINNING What triggered the project? We started working with the SCC Berlin-Mitte and we were interested in understanding their particular ways of strengthening and widening their social network through peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. We realised that by generating and sharing expertise on the usage of computers and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in general they were able to establish and foster social relationships in a wide variety of ways. During our research we spent a lot of time in Fischerinsel where the club is located. We learned that due to historical and structural reasons the situation of the neighbourhood, in terms of communication and collaboration, is being perceived as difficult by many of the inhabitants. This triggered the idea to transfer the ‘mechanism’ — 'community building through knowledge sharing' — to the wider context of the neighbourhood. After learning about widely shared concerns around issues of urban development of the dwelling (e.g. decay of public space), we started building frameworks that helped neighbours organise around some of those issues and to take on authorship in shaping their local environment together. What was your motivation? Aside from the general goals of the project and the pursuit of the underlying values, our intention was to broaden our understanding of design as an actor in the critical making of our cities beyond their material substance. Our motivation is the generation of knowledge regarding design’s possibilities to provide tools, means and structures to empower urban communities to take on ownership and authorship of the place and situation they live in.


Are there similar projects and did these stimulate you and are you linked to them in any way? The project started in 2011, at a time when numerous sharing projects were around and emerging. We also looked at the history of approaches like ‘Community Organising’ or ‘Participatory Design’, as well as respective projects, and we drew a lot of inspiration from these. But in the end, we consciously decided to develop our own approach in working with a community. How did the idea evolve? Through discussions and focused interviews with the members of the SCC BerlinMitte, and the participants at different neighbourhood events, we increasingly got to know the neighbourhood and its issues. Consequently, we decided to open up the project to the wider neighbourhood. At the same time, we agreed upon an overarching agenda but we always kept enough room for the project to evolve, which resulted in an ongoing refinement of goals, strategies and learning. Key organisational aspects – organisational structures:

Figure 1. Organisational structures.

Was the organisation informal or formal? The project is conducted in a non-institutionalised way with associates of the Design Research Lab (Berlin University of the Arts) as researchers and individuals of the local neighbourhood as active project members. Nevertheless, there were and still are discussions about whether we should turn our activities into a formalised and legal structure such as an association or not, but for now we decided to stay informal without fixed structures and hierarchies.


Target audience and network(s)? From the project perspective, our audience is the Fischerinsel neighbourhood including all inhabitants. One of the goals is to reach the inactive residents through visible changes in the neighbourhood. Another goal is the transfer of knowledge gained in the Fischerinsel neighbour-hood to the development and open-accessrelease of tools and processes to be used and adapted by other neighbourhoods, local initiatives, or in entirely different contexts. One example is our prototype Hybrid Letter Box,7 a concept to provide access to societal and political processes that have been digitised. Digitisation becomes more and more predominant, but excludes a vast number of citizens at the same time. From the research perspective our audience are academics from different related disciplines, activists, and more generally, the politically interested. We are constantly in dialogue with the design discipline in order to discuss the contemporary social and political dimensions within our own peer group.

ACTING & DOING What are/were the key activities? Monthly meetings were the driving force of the project. In the beginning we collectively analysed the neighbourhood through different tools and perspectives. In those collaborative design sessions we developed experimental and open communication tools for the neighbourhood (Figure 2.), or discussed how to connect the existing social or material elements with new ones in order to increase the interconnectedness and exchange between the inhabitants (Figure 3.). Besides those meetings we got to know the neighbourhood and individual inhabitants in more detail by being invited to their homes or through conducting neighbourhood walks focussing on different perspectives Additionally, we organised different events to present our project and the existing outcomes, like the Hybrid Letter Box (Figures 12 and 13.). Especially during the advanced process of the project we could present, test and discuss our collaboratively developed prototypes at different events like the Day of civic engagement. During this phase the reaction of the neighbours pointed the way ahead. We integrated the feedback in the next iterations of our prototypes. Through this, citizens from outside the neighbourhood got more and more interested, and we started to receive a notable attention of the media. This way, the project gathered momentum and the process generated more stability and speed. Naturally, we discussed a lot about how to fund our project. Therefore, we worked on some applications for financial support or awards. Thanks to the application of

7  Lutz Reiter and Fabricio Lamoncha supported us with the implementation of the Hybrid Letter Box. See: www.


Figures 2 and 3. Developing experimental and open communication tools.

two group members the project won the Lübeck Neighbourhood Price in 2013 and was awarded with money that helped us to carry things further. What are/were the key approach & methods? Our overall approach is based on the 'Research Through Design' approach.8 As its name implies, the design (Entwurf) forms the centre of research. The designs get implemented and tested in the context they were conceived in and generate insights for the predefined hypothesis or new insights for the theory. Through an iterative process the designs can be adapted according to the users’ needs and particular contexts. Our project is also based on the concepts of Participatory Design. We see the neighbour as an expert of everyday life9 and us in the role(s) of facilitators, tool adapters and process keepers. As an overall concept we use the implementation of means and methods of “Design as Infrastructuring”,10 which emphasises the inclusion and empowerment of citizens to take over the collectively developed framework. We want to create an environment that enables participants to collaboratively improve the social fabric and create ‘collective action’.11 With ‘infrastructure’ we mean a flexible, open and re-configurable assemblage of social and material elements that give communities the capability of developing authorship. The problems faced by today's citizens are dynamic, ever-changing and often difficult to solve. In our hypothesis these may be addressed best by creating infrastructures that do not

8  Jonas, W., 2006. Research through DESIGN through research - a problem statement and a conceptual sketch. In: Design Research Society. International Conference in Lisbon: IADE. Findeli, A., Brouillet, D., Martin, S., Moineau C. and Tarrago, R., 2008. Research Through Design and Transdisciplinarity. A Tentative Contribution to the Methodology of Design Research. In: Focussed: Current Design Research Projects and Methods. Swiss Design Network Symposium 2008, Mount Gurten, Berne, Switzerland, 30-31 May 2008. Chap. 4, pp.67–91. 9  C.f. ‘experts on their own experience’ in Sanders, E. B. N., Sleeswijk Visser, F., Stappers, P.J., van der Lugt, R., IDStudiolab, 2005. Contextmapping: experiences from practice, CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts, 1(2), p.10. Oxford:Taylor and Francis. 10  Binder, T., De Michelis, G., Ehn, P., Jacucci, G., Linde, P., Wagner, I., 2011. Design Things, Massachusetts. USA: MIT Press. 11  Penta, L., 2007. Menschen verändern ihre Stadt. edition Körber-Stiftung.


mute, but rather enable the expression of conflicting interests, standpoints and beliefs in order to obtain new publics and negotiation processes.12 The key methods we are using are based on the collective design process. In the monthly meetings we created different collective tools: one of our first tools was a collective map of the neighbourhood (Figure 4.). In a really simple, hand-drawn map the participants could draw their daily routes and mark the places they prefer and avoid. In this way the map was the basis for a discussion between neighbours with different backgrounds, interests and history. Besides, the participants got material cards (Figure 5.) to describe their experiences in the neighbourhood. Moreover, we did several paper prototyping sessions either to decide on useful functions, coherences for elements of the infrastructure, or to receive feedback on different concepts (Figure 6.). How did you get people participating? In the beginning of the project the research group participated in various neighbourhood events to get in touch with the neighbours. At this time, various physical interventions like a chalkboard with two questions about knowledge transfer or stickers with phrases relating to the subjective view on the neighbourhood were developed (Figures 7. and 8.). Some interventions were heavily used, others less so. Nevertheless, we had a lot of interesting talks and invited everybody to join the monthly meetings. The learning from this first phase was that experimenting with different kinds of interventions and offering incentives to stop by and start chatting (like waffles) helps triggering initial discussions rather than serving as means to generate deep insights about the neighbourhood. From there, the process had to be steered towards a more stable and profound conversation and tools had to be created in order to facilitate them adequately. After taking the decision to open up the project to the whole neighbourhood we conducted one major workshop to kick off the project. The idea was to get as many active neighbours as possible interested in our idea so that they would carry it out to others (e.g. more inactive neighbours), who would eventually join the group

Figures 4, 5 and 6. Community workshops with the neighbourhood.

12  Dewey, J., 1927. The Public and its problems. Ohio: Ohio University Press.


(snowball principle). The workshop was a success and a lot of different neighbours participated. Besides the obvious benefit of this broad involvement, we got to know many new facts about the neighbourhood. After establishing the monthly meeting group, the members backed the project more and more. At this point, they also convinced others to join the group. Therefore the group was constantly growing. It was a really good sign, but also hard to continue the process considering that we had to adjust to new participants almost every other meeting. After a certain time the group decreased again and about ten core members stabilised as a group. What is/was essentials for practical matters? The first practical requirement was a place to meet. Another requirement was the constant work of three core members. In this way we were able to share responsibilities and to take on different roles, which made the quite time-intensive process manageable. Thanks to the additional support of student workers, especially with technological and programming skills, we were able to make and manage progress. Additionally, the skill of being receptive listeners for various issues, such as personal challenges or disagreements between members, was fundamental. Meanwhile, the takeover of responsibility by some group members was really important for the success of the project. Another skill we had to bring into the group was how to communicate the process and its intended openness in different forms as well, over and over again. This openness and its inherent characteristics of being ‘invisible’ and ‘non-materialised’ needed to be made tangible: through visualisations, explanations and mappings. What are/were the key communication channels and methods? Regular communication is based on e-mail communication and a project blog.13 We have an e-mail list through which everybody can directly communicate to the whole group. The blog has different tasks: it works as an organisational tool (e.g. for our meetings) and offers minutes and procedures of the previous events and

Figures 7 and 8. Initial Fischerinsel activities.



meetings. It collects all our ‘successes’ and important steps in the process. Hence, it serves as documentation for any group member to use, and it serves as an interface with the media as well as with a broader public by showcasing articles, presenting picture material, conference papers and other materials. For sure, the blog also has the role of showing our process to the interested public. All the important decisions and further steps were discussed face-to-face in our monthly meetings. Media use and efficacy? Those two media channels (e-mail and blog) served the basic purpose of communicating in an efficient way, but the decentralisation of the communication structure never worked out. We gave it several tries but the responsibility of informing everybody and maintaining the blog is still ours. What are/were the outcomes with reference to the target audience? During the last year we maintained a parallel process going on: while working on the identification and decision-making processes within the neighbourhood group, we constantly redesigned, iterated and adapted the various elements of the infrastructure. This enabled us to make concrete moves while staying flexible to changing group dynamics and sizes as well as changes in strategy or personnel. Up to date, one project has been completed by the group. The Fischerinsel neighbourhood has a really specific demography. Over thirty percent is over sixty-five years of age. Thus, a lot of the inhabitants have difficulties in walking long distances, especially when shopping and carrying groceries. The working group identified a big lack of public furniture, which either decayed or was missing in crucial places such as the walkway between the high-rises and the supermarket. This prevented, for instance, senior citizens from having an opportunity to rest on their way, and thus seriously limited them in their independence and mobility. The group started reflecting on this problem, generating knowledge about the political and financial context, clearing the ownership complexity of public space, and began to elaborate on concrete demands and proposals. After developing a deep understanding of the

Figures 9, 10 and 11. New benches for the neighbourhood.


power and property structure, the group was able to build up pressure and convince the authorities to renew old benches and to place new benches at the demanded locations (Figures 9-11.). Drawing from these experiences, we designed concepts and prototypes that would further serve the socio-material infrastructure. One of those projects is called the Hybrid Letter Box (Figures 12 and 13.). It is an interface that enables low-threshold participation in a range of societal online processes and bridges the gap between digital and analogue, aiming at the inclusion of ‘digital strangers’. Not having access to ICTs can result out of numerous circumstances. Within our engagement in the context of the Fischerinsel, we particularly targeted senior citizens that do not feel comfortable in navigating the virtual space and therefore are left out of digital opportunities. The letterbox automatically transfers a hand written message into a digital image and uploads it to the respective online platform, and thus serves as a simple analogue-to-digital bridge or interface. The digital space provides us with new opportunities to spread issues effectively, and with our prototype we want to provide one possible access point for ‘offline’ citizens to take part in controversial discussions that can potentially contribute to the formation of Publics.14 The interface design of the Hybrid Letter Box utilises the act of dropping a letter as a ritualised communication behaviour and translates it into a digital act. By translating this widely known ritual, the principle of the Hybrid Letter Box is also transferable to other cultural contexts. Neither prior knowledge, nor the possession of, or access to, specific digital devices are necessary to use the interface. Additionally, we conceptualised a digital platform in order to translate the lessons learned from our very ‘analogue’ process into a decentralised and widely adaptable tool for others to lead the potential individual conditions into collective action (Figure 14. and 15.). The most important idea behind the platform is to connect the local initiatives to a global dimension via the related wider issues in order to provide possibilities to learn from each other’s processes. The Hybrid Letter Box could serve as one possible access point to the platform to ensure accessibility for a wide range of individuals.

Figures 12 and 13. The Hybrid Letter Box in use.

14  Dewey, J., 1927. The Public and its problems. Ohio: Ohio University Press.


Figure 14 and 15. Concept for a digital platform.


What are/were the impacts – target audience and wider? After we tackled the first issue, the group and also other neighbours were highly motivated to make the project move forward. Nevertheless, the pace of this process had to decelerate due to the need of time to take further steps in the development of the platform and the letterbox. At the moment we are working on the open source release of the letterbox and other concepts such as an application called De:Routing.15 Beyond the Fischerinsel neighbourhood, the feedback on the Hybrid Letter Box was surprising. We already tested it in a wide range of different contexts and received a lot of inquiries to implement it after the release — for a youth fair, voter engagement of political parties, for broadcasting narratives of inhabitants of senior centres or for direct civic activism in different cultural and political contexts. What are/were the dates of special or key-events?

Figure 16. Project lifecycle showing expansion of the partner network.

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is/was the project sustained? The project was sustained by regular meetings and our participation in it, the maintenance of our blog carrying a collective identity, a project name, and showing presence to the outside. The more we explained the goal of the project the more the engagement of single participants increased. One really important fact was the media attention it received and being awarded a renowned award. We, as researchers, were not

15  Supported by Lutz Reiter, Michelle Christensen and Florian Conradi. See: de-routing-experimental-approach-to-local-surroundings


able to invest enough time in these processes of communication. Therefore, some of the participants took on press correspondence and, for example, produced the application to the contest which we as a group won. At this stage of the process the Hybrid Letter Box was merely a concept, so it was even more surprising that we received such a support for our ideas. Through this and the translation, from concepts to prototypes, we got more and more interest from the broader public, which provided us with motivational moments to carry on as a group. What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? The capital we used to sustain the project was firstly social capital. All participants put a lot of effort, creativity, intelligence and time into the project. We further developed this social capital through endless discussions we would never have had without the project. Furthermore, the project created really strong relationships and enriched everyone involved with very interesting experiences. On a final note, we also created public capital by creating invisible and visible change in urban space Is it self-sustaining now or will it be in the future? The elements of the socio-material infrastructure are not self-sustaining by now, but all our plans are geared to make the system in the Fischerinsel neighbourhood self-sustaining in the near future. To realise this plan we especially need more time, and a self-sustaining business model. Are you happy with the project? We learned a vast number of lessons in this project. We gained knowledge about social structures, decision-making or managing a collective process. At the moment we really have to focus on our design process in order to continue, and commit the project to the neighbourhood. We know that we could have been way more time-efficient, but we had to gain the insights before we could apply them to the upcoming projects. Referring to our research, the project opened up various access points for design for social innovation approaches. The methods and tools we developed while leading the Participatory Design process and the tangible artefacts like the Hybrid Letter Box serve as significant references to bridge technology and design towards socio-material relations and public spheres. Would you change anything? We are constantly evaluating and redesigning our process according to changing circumstances and levels of understanding in numerous dimensions. We do not believe in the possibility of a blueprint for projects, like the one described above, and so we will change our processes according to each context.


Was the project as you expected or did you encounter anything unexpected? Through the open process, our expectations were really few in the beginning. One general misjudgement was the time and work intensity. We theoretically knew about the time consuming, complex set up of a process that aims to include and take equally into consideration different interests and point of views, in an unhierarchical manner. However, we did not know how time consuming this kind of social project can be and we did not expect that decision-making to be so complex. Socio-material ties are not only extremely complex, but also dependent on many different and unpredictable factors — to experience this complexity and unpredictability in practice, and allow it to happen when planning the subsequent projects, offers valuable insights. Is the project scalable? The project is scalable to the extent that the methods, processes and tools developed can be transferred to other (local) contexts. Additionally, the designed elements of the infrastructure can be used in other contexts and for other intentions. We had the possibility to test the Hybrid Letter Box already in other areas of Berlin by adapting the questions to the specific context. Every test felt differently with regards to the participants and the surrounding. In those experiments we added more features like a huge projection (Figure 17.) for a real-time discussion in a public space. It was also possible to add comments via text messages, so that by-passers could contribute to the conversation. Other parts of the process, such as methodologies and a general awareness of likely mistakes have been successfully applied to another project that we ran in Jerusalem over the last two years.

Figure 17. ‘Dear Sonnenallee’ installation.


What are your future plans? The release of the Hybrid Letter Box as open source and the evaluation of the different contexts it is appropriated for is one step of our future plan. We are very interested in the various ways it can be implemented and used by different initiatives and neighbourhoods. At the Fischerinsel, an intensive case study with the implementation of several letterboxes in public spaces over a period of several weeks is planned. Thereby we can see if the neighbourhood will adapt the concept and make use of new opportunities to spark local discourses. After finishing this big step, the transfer to other cultural, social and political contexts as well as the support of other initiatives with new infrastructural units seems to be really worthwhile for us.

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? In the first phase, mainly collective methods such as the collaborative neighbourhood mapping as a basis for discussion, material cards to describe the neighbourhood in subjective ways, and digital-analogue prototypes were developed. In the next phase, physical change in the neighbourhood was becoming visible through the renovation and installation of the benches. Drawing from this process, we designed several concepts and built plenty of prototypes for implementation within and beyond the project settings. What capacity did you build? How did you change people’s lives? First of all, we proved the fact that every single neighbour can change her or his own environment and conditions, encompassing all dimensions from the ecological to the social, through acts of communication and collaboration. Through the visible change in public space we hope to activate passive neighbours to rethink their role and to take on authorship for their respective life/worlds. Furthermore, we contributed to the establishment of a group that maintains close contact and, looking back to mutual successes, will quite certainly remain active in the shaping of their neighbourhood. Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? It will — after finalising the project by delivering the interconnected elements of the infrastructure in a self-sustaining system to the neighbourhood.

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned? By applying Participatory Design we gained a lot of insights, but at the same time, we also explored its limits. We realised that not every decision can be made by the


whole group. Especially, most of the basic design decisions should be mainly made by us, the designers. An often valuable tool to demonstrate our ideas is prototyping. The prototyping helps the participants and non-designers to formulate more profound feedback. Nevertheless, a major part of the designers’ knowledge is transferable to the group — particularly in the form of metha major part of the designers’ ods in order to generate collective knowledge. Through that the roles between researcher knowledge is transferable and participant can switch dynamically. to the group — particularly Another lesson learned is the need for viin the form of methods in sual or materialised constraints to be presentorder to generate collective ed with instructions explaining the purpose of knowledge the workshop. Otherwise the whole group will get lost in discussions and new ideas cannot emerge. The more concrete the task or purpose, the more effective and useful the outcome. We also learned about the importance of avoiding promises which cannot be fulfilled. In most cases, the lack of time was the reason for not being able to meet expectations we ourselves raised in the community. Thereby we learned about the fundamental value of open communication and assessing the time required in a more realistic way. Additionally, we learned how to reject activities. In these kinds of projects it is really easy to remain constantly active without making notable steps in the actual process. Therefore, we also had to learn to decline a lot of offers and inquiries that reached us. Furthermore, there are countless small but nevertheless very practical learnings, such as the unintended exclusion of possible participants by scheduling our monthly meeting on Monday afternoons. Thus, regularly working inhabitants with nine-to-five jobs were not able to participate in our project. What can be given as advice for the readers? Do’s • Reflecting on activities is as important as the execution • Listen to the participants and try to amplify their work instead of proposing your own solutions If the work is being done in a political context, we have to think our work as political Staying flexible enough to adapt to the ever changing nature of projects like the one described Don’ts • Do not raise expectations you cannot fulfil • Do not underestimate the time investment needed for such kind of projects • Do not try to control the situation too much — assign authorship to the neighbourhood.


Malin Bäckman is a designer who graduated from the interdisciplinary Master’s degree programme, Creative Sustainability at Aalto University, Helsinki in 2013. Her interests lie within participatory design approaches and design for social sustainability. She is interested in how to design with people in a local context, focusing on grassroots initiatives, and on how design can create possibilities for new forms of collaboration.

Kuutio, a mobile café © Malin Bäckman.


Designing with(in) a community: Sharing insights gained through practice. by Malin Bäckman

I wanted to gain understanding of how to involve residents of a neighbourhood in a design process through a series of initiatives, referred to as ‘explorations’. These explorations were carried out between October 2011 and August 2012 in Kannelmäki, a suburban area of Helsinki, and formed part of my Master's Thesis at the Creative Sustainability programme, at Aalto University. My thesis project was linked to Repicturing Suburban Neighbourhood (RSN), a course held as a workshop for university students in Kannelmäki during one week in May 2012. This academic course was part of Aalto University's 365 Wellbeing initiative, under the umbrella of Helsinki World Design Capital 2012.1 The RSN course was also part of a European collaboration project called TANGO (Towards a new intergenerational openness).2 The RSN course focused on the identity of Kannelmäki and aimed at finding ways to improve the everyday life of its residents. The aim of the course was to revitalise the area in collaboration with the residents. The explorations that I carried out in Kannelmäki build on the idea that sustainability requires collaboration. By bringing people together new forms of collaboration can emerge, which can have positive impacts both socially and environmentally. I asked myself: How can a designer encourage people to take action and improve their own living environment through the resources found within interpersonal relationships? The project builds on the mindset that the purpose of design should be to collaboratively move towards more sustainable ways of living.3 The first step for me as a designer was to gain understanding of how to design with people in a local context, and of the ways in which design can encourage new forms of col-

1  365 Wellbeing, 2  TANGO - Towards a new intergenerational openness. 3  See, for example, Manzini, E., 2007. Design research for sustainable social innovation. In: Michel, R. ed. 2007. Design research now. Essays and selected projects. Berlin: Birkhäuser. pp.233-245; and Fuad-Luke, A., 2007. Re-defining the purpose of (sustainable) design. Enter the design enablers, catalysts in co-design. In: Chapman, J., Gant, N. eds. Designers, visionaires + other stories. A collection of sustainable design essays. London: Earthscan. pp.18-55.


laboration. The participation of the residents was crucial in carrying out the process. I considered the residents of Kannelmäki as ‘everyday people who are experts of their experiences’,4 and the aim was to generate an ‘empathic understanding’5 of the residents of Kannelmäki. Each exploration formed a step in a process aimed at exploring the area of Kannelmäki and the residents’ perceptions of their living I considered the environment, while finding ways to connect with the residents of Kannelmäki community. Another objective was that of exploring as ‘everyday people who designerly ways of creating new social connections are experts of their among the residents. While I familiarised myself with the area and was trying to find ways to improve experiences’ collaboration with the residents, I wanted to produce knowledge about how to carry through with a design process in a local social context. Even though many design researchers agree that stakeholder involvement is essential within sustainable design, there is a lack of practice-based examples, especially when the focus of the design project is a specific local context. The explorations in Kannelmäki were carried out with the intention to gain understanding of how to put promising ideas from the field of sustainable design into practice.

Kuutio, a mobile café Creating temporary meeting places Purpose Kuutio, the cube, is a mobile café that visited several locations in Kannelmäki during August 2012. This project was the last of seven explorations that I did during my thesis project. The purpose with Kuutio was to create a project in collaboration with the residents, in the spirit of a community effort, where the creation of the project could bring people together and create new social contacts within the area. The reason for choosing a mobile café, was to create temporary, informal meeting places in the area. Bringing the cube to specific locations would highlight the place, create unique interactions and bring it into a different light. Background and concept During the course Repicturing Suburban Neighbourhood, I got familiar with Tuula Mäkiniemi, an architect student from Aalto-university. Mäkiniemi and I had similar ideas about building something physical together with the residents in the spirit of a community effort where the construction could serve as a social space.

4  Sanders, E. B. N., 2006. Design serving people. In: E. Salmi and L. Anusionwu., eds. Cumulus Working Papers 15/05. Cumulus Conference on Future Design and Innovation, Copenhagen, 23-25 September 2005. Helsinki: University of Art and Design, Publication Series G, 2006. pp.28-33. 5  See, for example: Vaajakallio, K., 2012. Design games as a tool, a mindset and a structure. PhD. Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture Helsinki: Aalto ARTS Books.


We decided that Kuutio would be installed in Kannelmäki for approximately one week in August 2012. Temporary meeting places would be created in the places visited by Kuutio and in each place there would be a trace left, to show that the cube had been there. Those visiting the café could leave messages and works of art in the café, resulting in modifications of the cube throughout the week. The original intention was to build the cube as a mobile kiosk that could fold out as a ‘terrace’ in collaboration with the residents. However, it became evident that the physical construction was not as important as the intervention of the cube and the event itself. So, we designed the cube as a foldable coffee table on a two-wheeled barrow. The surface of the table was designed so it could be modified by the café’s visitors throughout the week. Preparations: July and August We wanted to let the residents of Kannelmäki know that something was about to happen, but we decided to start spreading the word without giving too much away about the project. We set up a blog with basic information about the cube and we advertised the project by spreading paper origami cubes with the blog address attached around Kannelmäki. The cubes acted as flyers and aimed at catching people’s attention and curiosity. Posters were also distributed around the area, informing that the mobile café Kuutio would arrive in Kannelmäki in August. Prior to the event we contacted several different actors that supported us in different ways during the event week. The café keeper in the cultural centre of Kannelmäki, let us make coffee in her café and we got permission to keep the trolley with the cube in the lobby of the cultural centre in-between the events. The recycle centre Kierrätyskeskus supported the project with a small sum which enabled us to use their recycled materials, including bookshelves and legs from old tables. A key strategy in the actual event week was to piggyback with other events or happenings already scheduled in the community.

The event-week Saturday 18th August. Opening: painting the cube in public During the opening the cube was painted in public and by-passers were invited to participate. Some by-passers were curious about what was going on, while others were not too eager to participate. Some people approached us spontaneously with questions about the cube, but there were also many who did not dare to ask anything, instead they observed the painting operation at a distance. Others already knew about the project, as they had either seen the posters or the cube in the lobby of the cultural centre. They approached us in order to get additional information.


Painting Kuutio in public. © Pyry Nousiainen.

Kuutio during the Finissage. © Malin Bäckman.

Sunday 19th August. Restaurant Day Taking advantage of the renowned Restaurant Day event6 Kuutio was set up in three different locations in Kannelmäki. The first spot for the café was in a park area, in-between houses, with trees as shelter from the rain. There were only a few customers at the first location, most likely due to the weather. When Kuutio arrived at the second spot, there were already a few young customers waiting for the café to open. The last spot of the day was at a terrace by a small river passing through Kannelmäki. During the visit at the terrace the café got several visitors, most of them had received the information through the webpage of the Restaurant Day, where the event had been registered. Thursday 23rd August. Visit at the elderly home Kuutio was taken to a service house for the elderly in Kannelmäki. We had contacted the service house beforehand, and we invited a group of children from a kindergarten nearby to the service house. The elderly and the children were first told about the project, and then invited to draw pictures and messages that were attached to the table surface of the cube.

6  See more on Restaurant Day at 7  See Helsinki Festival at


Thursday 23rd August, in the evening. The Night of the Arts, Kanneltalo This is the date for The night of the Arts,7 an annual event when there are art and cultural events all around Helsinki. We had planned to be at the terrace by the small river passing through Kannelmäki, where we would have a workshop where people could make origami boats. The boats would be put to float on the river. Due to the inclement weather we agreed with the cultural producers of Kanneltalo, that Kuutio could be in the lobby of the cultural centre and we would participate in the cultural centre's event instead. During the evening people were invited to leave artworks or messages that were attached to the table surface of the cube, they could also learn how to make origami cubes. During The night of the Arts people were told about the project and encouraged to visit the last event day, which we called finissage, which would take place the following weekend. Friday 24th August. Surprise visit The day before the finissage a surprise visit was made to the terrace by the river, with the intention of making the origami boat installation, which had not been possible to realise the day before. The weather was, again, quite inclement, so we couldn’t make the paper boats to float down the river. However, there were a few visitors and good conversations by the coffee table. Saturday 25th August. Finissage Throughout the week the residents could leave suggestions on where the last visit of Kuutio should take place. One of the suggestions was the playground located close to Kannelmäki's church. The Kuutio café was set up at a crossing of pedestrian roads beside the playground. The weather was sunny and quite warm so there were people walking by the café throughout the day. Most of the people who stopped by, happened to be out walking or were on their way to the playground, but a few had followed the track of the café with the help of the posters and the blog, and had explicitly gone out walking in order to visit the café. While drinking their coffee the visitors were looking at and reading the different messages left on the table and many of them also made their own artworks.

Reflections We were curious to see in what ways the residents of Kannelmäki would relate to the cube and whether it would be possible to create temporary meeting places. Many of the choices made both during the planning phase and during the realisation were combinations of thoroughly planned ideas and pure coincidence. Everything did not go exactly as planned, but serendipity and being open to it, was one important character of the Kuutio project. Similarly, as in the whole series of explorations that I did in Kannelmäki, the intention with the Kuutio project, was to let the situations and the people who happened to take part in the events in order to shape them.


During the week we noticed that many of the café visitors had seen the origami cubes and posters that were put up in the area during the summer. When the origami cubes were spread, passers-by asked about the cubes and this served as a possibility for us to tell the local residents about the upcoming event and spread the word about it. When we walked through Kannelmäki with the trolley we got quite some attention, but only a few people asked what the cube contained. When the coffee table was unfolded we could noticed the same thing, people approached the café mostly when we were active ourselves and welcomed passers-by to have a coffee. We realised that clear signs close to where the table was unfolded, where it would be said that Kuutio is a mobile café open for everyone, would have been a way to make it easier for passers-by to approach the café. Even though the first plans for Kuutio were simplified and all of the events were not carried through exactly as planned due to weather conditions, we were satisfied with the project. Most of the people, who either came to drink a cup of coffee, talk for a while or paint the cube, were very positive and encouraging towards the project. By testing the idea in practice we could see that informal meeting places are possible to create by bringing something out of the ordinary into the area. One of the main ideas with the project was to bring people from the area together. By collecting the artworks and messages which would later be visible to others who came in contact with Kuutio, these engaged others in the project. The help we got from various stakeholders in the area made it easier for us to carry through with the project, while the different stakeholders served as channels through which we could reach local residents. A way to ensure that there would be visitors and participants at the events would have been to get a certain group involved in the project in an early phase. This could also have strengthened the feeling of ownership among the residents. But the way the project was carried out did not link the project to a specific group in the area, which can be seen as a way to reach an audience as wide as possible.

Discussion While exploring how to carry through with a design process where the goal was to design with people rather than for them, an additional motivation was to contribute to the changing notion of design. The area of participatory design approaches has potential to create opportunities for diverse actors to collaboratively articulate the issues that should be addressed within sustainable development on a local level. When seen from a design perspective, designers should collaborate with people outside the design profession more actively, but also with each other. Designers

8  Ezio Manzini stresses the importance of producing new design knowledge in order for design to change direction towards sustainability. Manzini, E., 2009. New design knowledge. Design studies, 30, pp.4-12.


can and should learn from each other, and consider not only sustainability but also the development of the design field as a collaborative effort. Each initiative taken within the local social context can produce new design knowledge,8 while serving as an example for the rest of society of how design can act as a way of catalysing the potential that exists within a neighbourhood.

How to carry out a design process in a local social setting There is most certainly not one single way to carry out a participatory design process in a local social context. With the explorations done in Kannelmäki the aim was to get to know the area based on the residents’ perceptions, then find issues that could be improved according to the opinions of the residents and finally, in collaboration with the residents, take action to change the current situation. Based on the explorations I have outlined a set of guidelines, as a suggestion to how a similar design process can be approached. One important aspect within the guidelines is to approach the residents step by step. The relationship between the designer, or the design team, and the residents should be given time to develop. Involving people in a participatory design process concerning their living environment requires trust, to be built between the designer and the residents. It also requires flexibility and openness to respond and adapt to events and situations throughout the process, and sensitivity towards the opinions and attitudes of the residents. The guidelines include aspects to be taken into account, and serve as a set of practical advice for the designer when carrying out a participatory design project in a specific area.

Guidelines9 Don’t be afraid to get started (beginning) The process will have to start somewhere, but it can be challenging to take the first step. So, it is best to start with a simple effort where the designer can begin by sensing the area. When the very nature of the design project is articulated in collaboration with the residents, the first step will be to get familiar with the context by spending time in the area while mapping different resources. Small actions can generate encounters with local people who can provide the designer or the design team with relevant information. Each encounter with local people, be it based on pre-arranged meetings or spontaneous encounters in the streets, will help in getting to know the area based on the residents’ perceptions.

9  These guidlines were first presented in Bäckman, M., 2013. Explorations in Kannelmäki. Building design knowledge through practice-based design research. MA. Aalto University.


Connect with locals from the very beginning and consider them experts (beginning) The residents are the experts of their neighbourhood, so the context within which the project is to take place will best be understood by listening to the opinions of the residents. Listening to the opinions of the locals makes it easier to understand what it is like to live in the area, and its strengths and weaknesses. Creating connections and building trust takes time, the earlier this process is started the easier it will be to involve local people further on in the project. Considering the residents as experts within the design process helps in getting to know the perceptions of the people who live in the area and also makes it easier to involve them in the design process. If the residents are considered to be the experts it is more likely that they will take ownership of the design process, than if the designer considers him or herself as an expert. Being on an equal level with the people one is working with, and stepping out from the comfort zone of being the designer/expert is essential when working with people in a local setting. Find local key people (beginning) Local key people are a valuable resource both in the beginning of the process, whilst getting to know how things in the area work, and further on as a link to other residents. The key people are active individuals often involved in associations and projects in the area. By connecting with key people it is easier to build trust with other community members as the active individuals usually have good social networks within the area and are considered reliable. Therefore being introduced by a local key person makes it more likely that residents will be interested in getting involved in the design project. Be clear about your own role (throughout the process) Even though the designers’ role is continuously changing, people outside the design profession often see designers as professionals who are focused on designing products or planning the built environment. When the intention is to collaborate with the residents and find propositions for improvement, it is important to explain this clearly already at the beginning of the process. When carrying out a design process in a local social context the designer might only act as a facilitator, aiming at encouraging participation even if the outcome is not necessarily anything tangible. The more one has reflected upon one’s own designer role, the easier it will be to explain this role to the people encountered throughout the project. Be visible (in the beginning and throughout the process) Through various forms of visibility one can attract people's attention and let people know about the design project in question. Posters are a common and easy way to distribute information, but more surprising methods can be beneficial. Curiosity about surprising things in the neighbourhood can attract residents’ attention. Sometimes strangeness can be a positive way to provoke discussion with and among


the residents of an area. One of the designers’ special skills is creativity. Making interventions to attract attention are often an effective way of engaging people. Be where the people are (second step) When setting up an event where the aim is to reach the residents, start with a place where people frequently go, even though this place might be associated to certain values or visited by a certain group of people. Approaching people at a place where they usually spend time will be much easier than trying to invite people to a location they do not normally visit. Keep in mind that only a certain type of people is likely to be reached through a certain types of events. Trying different places is beneficial if the aim is to connect with a wide variety of people from within the neighbourhood. Be prepared to explain what you are doing (second step) When entering an area and approaching people they will most likely ask what the project is about, so be prepared to shortly and clearly explain who you are, why you are in the area, what are your main intentions and the key aims of your project. Even though it is beneficial to remain open, and let the residents’ opinions guide the process, the people you encounter will most likely appreciate and more willingly collaborate if you can give them a coherent explanation about the aim(s) of your project. Give something in return (second step) When gathering data and getting to know the residents’ perceptions it is useful to bring activities to events that will benefit the participants. Gathering data is through interviews, or running a workshop, can help satisfy those who participate. For example, a workshop can be a way to bring residents together to address a common concern, to create new connections and, at the same time, have an enjoyable time. Give the results back to the interviewees and participants, so they can learn from the activity. Use different approaches (throughout the process) Try different approaches throughout the process to reach different audiences. Approaching people on the street, setting up an event or meeting the same group of people several times are all very different ways of collaborating with the residents and serve different purposes. Preparing different ways of taking part in the activities, for example, through visual means, writing or discussion, gives everyone the possibility to participate. Be open, flexible and adaptable (throughout the process) By openly communicating and demonstrating the nature of the project, the residents have the opportunity to follow the development of the design process. This can be done for example through a webpage or a blog, where the design process, efforts and reflections are updated throughout the process. In this way people can


learn about other residents’ perceptions of their area, comment or get involved in the project. It is also worth considering ways to demonstrate the design process offline, since all people do not necessarily use online platforms actively. Being flexible is crucial as it is hard to foresee how things will go. Openness and flexibility help involve the residents in the process, by letting their ideas guide the process. Unexpected things happen, so try to adapt and have a back-up plan or strategy. Try to turn the unexpected into something that benefits the process. Be an example (towards the end) While finding out attitudes and ideas for improvement in an area, one way to get people to take action to improve their living environment is to show examples. Initiating an intervention where something is improved, even temporarily, can inspire residents to take similar initiatives. Each action performed can lead to new sets of actions. Involve local resources and highlight strengths (towards the end) When creating a suggestion for how to improve the area, it is beneficial to identify and involve existing local resources. This is a way to highlight strengths in the area and can facilitate new connections among existing resources. Involvement also creates a feeling of ownership among the residents which helps sustain the initiative.


Julian Lindley - The first question is WHY? the second is HOW?. Design explores both with possibilities and solutions.

349 Kuutio on Restaurant Day. © Anja-Lisa Hirscher.


working Modes of being active, of acting, operating, functioning, organising and practicing to achieve something, to earn or make a livelihood, to be a valued contributor to society, its individual members and to oneself.


Frigga Haug was born in 1937, she is a German sociologist and philosopher. Her work focuses on learning, work and feminist politics. She was professor of sociology until 2001 at the University of Hamburg and guest lecturer in Kopenhagen, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Sydney, Toronto, and Durham (USA). Also, she is an active member of attac, the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation and the party Die Linke.



The 4-in-1-perspective by Frigga Haug

Translation of Frigga Haug's text 'Zeit, Wohlstand und Arbeit neu definieren', published in Zeitwohlstand (2014, oekom Verlag), with her kind permission and support.

Redefining time, wealth and work During my work about love in the millenniums, specifically what motivates people and what they do with love and what love does to them, I came across the laconic sentence by Alexandra Kollontai (in her Three Tales from 1920): ‘Love is rare, it needs leisure and today's human does not have time to love’.1 Kollontai is important for women on the rise as part of her participation in the Russian revolution was to liberate women from the 'prison of love', so that they were 'free as the wind' and 'lonely as prairie grass'. At first sight, this sounds highly controversial. Freedom — as away from love, simultaneously with the goal — time for love. Having a closer look at this contradiction, we already deal with our topic of time as wealth. It is a multi-faceted term. Does it mean we live in time emergency or time poverty, we might be able to solve as if we did not have any time? Or, does it mean we the growing problem of have to strive for more free time, to stop measuring prosperity with financial wealth and instead to meapoverty by promising sure prosperity with time for oneself? If we look at people time instead of it in this way, we might be able to solve the growing money and work problem of poverty by promising people time instead of money and work, which should result from unemployment anyway. The unemployed would live in a different prosperity simply through reassessment. What will they do with the time they gained though? Is it possible to collect time like money or to save it as such? Everybody knows there is a limit to time. This resource is highly limited, measurable and exceedingly equal for everyone. Independently from the overall level of wealth, one has twenty-

1  Kollontai, A., 1992. Wege zur Liebe. Drei Erzählungen. Berlin: Der Morgenbuch Verlag. p.56.


four hours a day which are at debate when we talk about wealth of time. They are contested. It is all about the disposal of time. Time belongs to us and, at the same time, we have to give it away and exchange it: by selling it as work time, if we want to live and take part in society. At first glance, time is an empty shell into which we shape, design and enjoy our lives. It depends on time at our disposal; How much of it is love and enjoyment? The words grapple in a field of self-determination — Can we command our time? — and of heteronomy — Who disposes of our time, after all?

The perspective of those in command Let us approach the problematic in a pragmatic and simple way by changing sides. Let us look at time, not with our own eyes, seduced on the quest for self-determination, but let us look through the eyes of someone who made the most drastic and most modern plan for the disposal of human time. He is Peter Hartz, known for the Hartz reforms.2 He was appointed to design the future of many via a book, in which he has executed and advertised his plans for the future of work and time already before the introduction of the Hartz Commission and the following Hartz IV.3 I make a brief sketch of these proposals to reveal their satirical character: Let's start with the calculation of work time according to Hartz. The talk is about the ‘two-third society’ as a threat of structural unemployment and the resulting segregation of a third of the population from active participation. Hartz reverses this thinking: by no means are we moving to a two-third-society, instead, we already live in a 'ten-percent-society'. ‘The percentage of time worked in a lifetime has already sunk to beneath 10 percent.’4

No wonder the system, according to Hartz, is stuck in a crisis. The trick in this surprising calculation is incorporated in the term 'life'. Hartz conceives the human being as a machine that could work day and night and all lifelong. Whilst estimating downtimes, he recognizes that the machine is not being used to its full capacity. He calculates from the age of an infant to an eighty-year old and sees that humans

2  Editors' note: The Hartz concept, also known as Hartz reforms or the Hartz plan, is a set of recommendations submitted by a Commission on reforms to the German labour market in 2002. They were named after the Head of the Commission, Peter Hartz. The committee devised thirteen ‘innovation modules’, which recommended changes to the German labour market system. These were then gradually put into practice: The measures of Hartz I-III were undertaken between January 1, 2003, and 2004, while Hartz IV was implemented on January 1, 2005. They were highly contested as an ‘innovation from welfare to workfare’ which submitted everybody under control, resulting in huge demonstrations every Monday for a period of time. 3  Editors' note: Hartz IV are basic social benefits for long-term unemployed and people who have not been employed for longer than a year, together with a set of certain conditions to reintroduce people to the labour market as fast as possible. 4  Hartz, P., 2001. Job-Revolution. Wie wir neue Arbeitsplätze gewinnen können, Frankfurt: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung BuchVerlag. p.20.


have a lot of (free) time they can put to work. Even then, one takes time off for holidays, weekends, being sick, spending time sleeping and eating and all sorts of leisure activities. Then, one goes into retirement and again does not spend one's time working. If all of this is added together, Hartz computes the following sum: ‘40 full years in a job with an average of 1400 hours effective time worked in a year with an 80 years life expectancy make up only 8 percent of life.’5

Based on this, Hartz allows himself to dictate reasonability and remind us modestly. With only 8% of life dedicated to work, no working class, no trade union can grow any more. Work has become a side issue. Counter-arguments are suffocated by undercutting: ‘In summary, it is estimated that an average employee does not work more than 5% of his life for his own and his family's livelihood.’6

The ground is prepared to impose the complete opposite. Hartz takes over the social movements' words of hope and creates the new offer of the 'entrepreneur', who everyone can turn into through magical words: ‘Labour time sovereignty – the end of recording labour time is the first step to a new maturity: to organize times by yourselves instead of work of order and task. Trust work is the second step: to set goals and claim successes instead of planning details. The revolution starts with the third step: work is redefined: it encompasses a holistic part of life: to learn, to produce, to communicate. To move something! (…) In the future, work's driving force will be the motivator: 'Move something – you can do it!' The local entrepreneur is part of taking the destiny of his occupation into his own hands. (…) This new definition of work will be a predominant topic of the future.’7

Antonio Gramsci8 calls such procedure a ‘passive revolution’. Utopia is taken to the here and now and appears exactly where we risk our necks. This metamorphosis — Hartz might call it 'flight forward' — requires sportsmanship. It is imperative to endure the ‘inconvenience of the future’ with a sporting attitude.9 What is the

5  Hartz, P., 2001. Job-Revolution. Wie wir neue Arbeitsplätze gewinnen können. Frankfurt: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung BuchVerlag. p.20. 6  Ibid., p.48. 7  Ibid., p.21. 8  Editors' note: Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Marxist theoretician and politician who wrote on political theory, sociology and linguistics. He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how states use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. Source: Wikipedia. 2014. Available at: 9  Hartz, P., 2001. Job-Revolution. Wie wir neue Arbeitsplätze gewinnen können. Frankfurt: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung BuchVerlag. p.25.


new type of human Hartz is aiming to create? The definition follows at first in the shape of a threat: ‘The job-revolution (…) is not going to be an unhurried development outlived by job-holders in secured positions. It will be dramatic for each one of those whose personal learning capacity and employability to occupy oneself cannot keep up with this dynamic.’10

These words leave no space for doubt. It is a question of life and death. On the central stage, we have a new term acting almost like a sheet anchor11 – employability. It appears as an inner virtue and responsible potency to be for sale on the market. That is, spoken in such a radical way, it is new. It is the dictate to align your life so that one is deployable, like a machine, at any time and place for any possible duration, featuring 'human' emotions on top of all that. If this designing of the self is unhitched from critical societal analysis, for this part of the working population, we can speak of a kind of 'super-Fordism' from which all social and societal fuses are taken out. ‘Competences in electronics will be a decisive driver of value-creation within this sector.’12

Another linguistic tactic, stemming from advertising, is word-bombardment. New words or words in unusual contexts pour down on us so quickly that there is no time left to reflect on them. The only escape is to go along. The new type of human being that is shaped within all that needs: ‘a new work ethics, in which people don't understand themselves as shareholders of their own work force (so to speak as shareholders of their human assets), but where they take over responsibility for their ability to employ themselves as workholders, keepers and active developers of their chances and workplaces.’13

It becomes more and more evident that it is the individual who can be blamed for the misery of the job market, and that accordingly it has to be the individual that furthers the solution, having to pull the strings to save oneself from drowning. At this point it is time to remind ourselves of the time account. Hartz estimated individuals spend only approximately ten percent of their lifetime working, therefore, ‘this shortened time can be spent running and working like a horse.’14 With this

10  Hartz, P., 2001. Job-Revolution. Wie wir neue Arbeitsplätze gewinnen können, Frankfurt: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung BuchVerlag. p.10. 11  A large, extra anchor often used to stabilise a ship or boat in emergencies. 12  Ibid., p.35. 13  Ibid., p.41. 14  Ibid., p.51.


way of “employment and flexible operational model we could reach a yearly usage of 6000 to 7000 hours”,15 which would also contribute economically to the usage of machines and investments.

Pitfalls The story has plenty of pitfalls. The first one is to put self-determination on the line in similar ways as the demands for time prosperity. According to Hartz everyone becomes an entrepreneur. In reality, not everyone can become an entrepreneur, unless we first give up doing jobs for anyone else. A society made up of individuals, neither joining forces nor confidently sharing existing necessary work, needs an invisible order, to keep all these free entrepreneurs under thumb. The second pitfall is the misconception that there is no necessary work whose regulation is a task for society. Again, both horse and cavalier are sent to the misty spheres of the unknown. It would sound appealing without the baiting of “running and working like a horse” and the extreme heteronomy. We are chased by fears and desires, with the wanted and the dreaded. Obviously, we need a different, more or less stable standpoint from which we are able to decide on the perspective that determines what our lives may look like and what we need for it. For further reflections, the societal human being will be the leading compass, each and every one of us in our society.

The 4-in-1-perspective and struggles for hegemony around work Without a vision of how a different society may look like, it is difficult to practice politics that engages people. To oppose the weariness and faintheartedness in a growing number of people that would never be, or are not any more, in gainful employment, against all hopes for wage claims and job security, I searched for a utopian vision that would incorporate the hopes of the many others with a humanly Without a vision of how dignified goal. The art of politics is not about defining a different society may the 'right' goal and then implementing it; the art of politics is about building connections, about creatlook like, it is difficult ing a space of orientation which puts the fragmented to practice politics that struggles into new contexts. It is not about magically engages people creating new jobs out of a hat, but to distribute existing labour in a just manner. This means we need to imagine all of our human activities – employment, reproductive work, our own development and politics –

15  Hartz, P., 2001. Job-Revolution. Wie wir neue Arbeitsplätze gewinnen können. Frankfurt: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung BuchVerlag. p.51.


distributed to each individual in equal proportions. In the first instance, we assume a hypothetic sixteen-hours-workday. In this workday, each one of the four dimensions of life are allotted four hours of space, in an ideal-type estimation. Obviously, this is not conceived to be mechanically worked off with a stopwatch. Rather, it serves as a guideline for orientation. Looking at the first part of these dimensions, the sphere of wage labour, it is immediately obvious that speaking of a crisis because we are running out of labour is based upon an utterly restrictive concept of labour. From the viewpoint of life as a whole, and its human conduct, the situation looks radically different. A new guiding principle in labour politics would be the necessary shortening of every person's wage labour time to one fourth of the time used actively, which would come down to four hours. In long-term perspective, problems of unemployment including precarious and part-time employment would turn obsolete and we could finally focus on the quality of work. The second of the four dimensions concerns reproductive work, which is not to be understood as merely household and family work. It includes work on ourselves and on others. It encompasses the question of children, the elderly, the handicapped, the sick, but also of friends and lovers, up to the compulsory tie to nature. For reproductive and family work this means first and foremost a generalisation. Just as no one can be excluded from wage labour, no one should be excluded from reproductive work. All humans, men and women can and should develop their social human capabilities. This resolves the dispute around child-rearing subsidies without devaluating the work that is carried out in that area.16 The third dimension is about lifelong unfolding and developing through learning, about enjoying life not merely as a consumer but through activity, and hereby to be able to draft a different concept of the The activation of all human good life. Put differently, we should no lonsenses should no longer be a ger accept that some speak many languagluxury reserved for the rich. es, dance, make music, compose, paint and Instead, each human being travel, while others ought to be happy if should be able to live according they can even read and write. All humans possess a potential for development which to her or his capabilities comes to life out of the slumber of the possible. The activation of all human senses should no longer be a luxury reserved for the rich. Instead, each human being should be able to live according to her or his capabilities. In order to accomplish this, space and time devoted to this is necessary. The fourth dimension of human life, politics, demands attention as it is ruling and shaping society. Constructing a society should no longer be specialized labour

16  Editors' note: There have been many improvements in the past years in diverse countries around the world, but still, motherhood encounters discrimination and devaluation as work, making it difficult for women to decide about parenthood. This has generated a buzzword, ‘social freezing’...


with some taking care of all political questions, while others – and that is by far the majority – must carry the burden of the consequences. Linking up those four dimensions of human life to create an alternative model outlines a more comprehensive definition of justice for all. As its point of departure, it takes the division of labour and the time devotion aligned to it. It seeks to radically change our societies' time regime. However, each area, taken as the sole focus point of politics, can become downright reactionary. The art of politics lies in the interweaving of all four areas. Taken together, they reveal an alternative society whilst indicating first steps towards it. It is not possible to be implemented here and now, but it can serve as a compass for defining goals in politics, as a benchmark for our demands, as the basis of our critique, as hope, as a concrete utopia which includes all human beings; in which finally, the development of each individual human being may become the precondition for the development of all.

Work When we talk about time wealth, we also deal with questions about a good life for all. It sounds modest, but it is, as the crisis of capitalism reconfirms, the most shameless thing that could cross our minds these days. On the journey there, enormous obstacles will block our way – obstacles of economical, political, and cultural origins, and, last but not least, our very own habits. “Our society is running out of work”, social scientists have been shouting for about thirty years – as if society was like a [mine] pit after depletion. People endeavour to find societal solidarity elsewhere, not through work but possibly through communication, or even consumption. Practically, this way seems to come true. The world's financial crisis is teaching us fear. Daily reports about more and more unemployed, several thousands filling the news each day, makes it easy for fear to creep into the hearts of many. Yet, presently, it is the others, Greece and Spain — when will the crisis hit us? People cling desperately to their jobs, if not lost yet, ready for anything and leaving all further hopes behind. Wherever we look things appear ambiguous. Unemployment is not simply a lack and signifier for poverty. It is a proof of the development of labour's productive forces that allows a considerable reduction If society needs less labour of working hours necessary for survival. It for the essential, people indicates wealth — certainly not for those who become unemployed. If society needs would be unleashed to take less labour for the essential, people would be up all those activities for unleashed to take up all those activities for which time was scarce before which time was scarce before. The fact that people are unable to cherish the reduction of necessary labour can be explained with the formal definition of wage work. Only those placing eight hours or more of their time at disposal can hope for recognition, appropriate renumeration, appreciation


and participation in society. This turns unemployment into liberation as a form of deprivation, a tragedy for the working class. We assume that through our higher standard of living, we only need to put in a fraction of the working hours needed to create the same products. Furthermore, with productive resources and the necessary know-how becoming generally available in the foreseeable future, we assume that this could be enforced on a global scale. In this situation, the German government — of one of the richest countries in the world — demands a prolongation of the weekly and, above all, the [total] time worked in a lifetime, based on the claim of securing employment. The government holds on to a work model departing from an eight-hour-day without being able to provide such employment for all. The government clings to a higher retirement age even though those over fifty-five years of age find it impossible to find labour. There is no outcry in our country. Each individual still hopes for the government's expertise in the crisis.

Part-time work for all This slogan certainly meets resistance at first, especially from those in full-time employment, setting the standard for their use of time, partition of domestic duties and level of living. For a long time, trade unions have fought against part-time work, largely without success. Today, seventy percent of women are employed part-time. Part-time work is equated with poverty, hopelessness, little security and barely any promotion prospects. Part-time work has the reputation of not committing to any serious work. It means to have failed as a member of society. And now, the misery of part-time workers is supposed to hit society as a whole? It is commonly known that nobody can make ends meet with such an income. At first sight, part-time work seems to be exactly what we're fighting against. Labour as a job deprived from meaning, merely burning oneself out in exchange for small money. We all know the arguments against part-time work, but part-time work for all would be more than just an unwelcome recognition of existing part-time labour, it is a watchword to stumble upon. After a few seconds, its absurdity becomes apparent. Part-time can no longer be part-time. As we speak, it turns into full-time, instigating thoughts about what that means. Is this what we really want, an eight-hour day of wage labour, possibly with overtime? “Running and working like a horse”, how Peter Hartz has already envisaged for us, burnt out and tired in the evening, with no time left for family and friends, culture and creativity, least of all for politics? How about giving a new workday a try; what would it be like to spend only four of the common working hours with wage labour and, command autonomously about the liberated time instead of being at the disposal of others. Life is more than just wage labour whose significance must be depreciated. Conviviality needs more time – let's call it time for children, the elderly, close ones, friends, lovers, all living


creatures and things around us. We could envisage a worthwhile goal and demand that two persons share one full-time job. We would have more work places than people applying for them. Finally, we could turn to secure the quality of work and restore its adequacy to human skills and their development. Part-time work is a learning process, a challenge for all of us prompting thoughts on our habits and preconceptions. It triggers changes within each individual, creating a new awareness for the need of a different time regime over our lives. We can fight for this together. A humane arrangement of time for executing the necessary, taking care of life and its conditions; to further every person's individual development and the necessary leisure time for political engagement and the construction of society, so that changing oneself and changing society coincide.


Martin Parker works at the University of Leicester School of Management, UK, and writes about alternative ways of thinking about organising. Recently he has been writing about circuses, outlaws, shipping containers and skyscrapers.



The Architect and the Bee Revisited: Managing, Organizing and Agency by Martin Parker

A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.1 Karl Marx

Let’s Hear it for the Bees Marx seems to be suggesting that bees are somehow less impressive than architects.2 That bees, if they are to do anything complicated, need someone to plan things on their behalf. This is a presumption often held by both left and right. Ever since the rise of the bureaucratic state, the large corporation, and then the university business school, we have been told that there are experts who manage others. These might be practical experts, such as private and public sector managers, civil servants or politicians, or academic experts, such as business school professors. Over the last century a chorus of textbooks, consultants, business magazines and government reports have encouraged us to believe (at least) two things. First, that certain kinds of people understand efficiency, productivity, accounting, marketing, decision-making and so on. In other words, that they know what they are talking about. Second, that we don’t. In other words that you, we, the ordinary people, the 99%,3 do not have the knowledge, understanding or skill to manage ourselves. If we don’t have management experts to guide us, we will blunder around, stumble and

1  Marx, K., 1990. Capital: Volume One. London: Penguin. p.284. 2  Thanks to Matt Allen for reading Hardt and Negri, so that I don’t have to, and to the editors for their comments. 3  Refers to the slogan, ”We are the 99%”, used by the Occupy Movement,


fight, like the idiots that we are. As a result, we are often not agents, but puppets inside someone else’s structure. Part of what has happened here is that the everyday activity of organising has been reduced to the idea of management. In other words, we have been encouraged to think that organisation equals management, when in fact management is actually a very specific form of organization, one the everyday activity of that relies on hierarchy, pay and status organising has been reduced to differences, claims to expertise, and that the idea of management assumes we need to be led. In this short essay, I will explore some of the implications of this idea, and insist that organization is a far more generous term than management. We are all agents of organisation, because organising is itself a form of politics made durable,4 a means that becomes an end in itself. The aim of this book, of this project of rethinking, is to reclaim organising from the experts and make it into a form of everyday politics. In doing so, these questions of collectivism and the common good need to be balanced against ideas about autonomy and difference. The resulting forms of organisation then need to be aimed at the service of the future, always in the knowledge that organisation is politics, and that bees can do some rather impressive things, and architects can’t make honey.

Management ‘These are the organizers, the administrators and the managers who are essential to a complicated industrial society; but I see no reason why the co-ordinator should be more highly placed or more highly paid than the originator, the creator, the worker. The manager owes his present status and prestige, not to the nature of his work, but to his immediate control of the instruments of production. In any natural society he would be as unobtrusive as a railway signal-man in his box.’5

In English, the word management has an interesting history, and some rather productive differences of meaning.6 It seems to be derived from the Italian mano, hand, and its expansion into maneggiarre, the activity of handling and training a horse carried out by maneggio. From this form of manual control, the word gets expanded into a general activity of training and handling people too. The later

4  With a nod to Latour. Latour, B., 1991. Technology is Society made Durable. In: J Law, ed. 1991. A Sociology of Monsters? Essays on Power, Technology and Domination. London: Routledge. pp.103-131. 5  Read, H., 2002 (1963). The Cult of Leadership. In: H. Read, To Hell with Culture, and Other Essays on Art and Society. London: Routledge. pp.48-69. 6  Parts of this essay are self-plagiarised from Parker, M., 2002. Against Management. Oxford: Polity and Parker, M., 2008. Schools for Organizing In: D. Barry and H. Hansen, eds. 2008. Handbook of New Approaches to Management and Organization. London: Sage. pp.213-4; and Parker, M., Cheney, G., Fournier, V., and Land, C., eds., 2014a. The Companion to Alternative Organization. London: Routledge; and Parker, M., Cheney, G., Fournier, V., and Land, C., 2014 forthcoming. The Question of Organization: A Manifesto for Alternatives.


development of the word is also claimed to be influenced by the French mener (to lead) and its development into ménage - household, or housekeeping — and the verb ménager — to economise. But the later imperialism of this word for handling beasts also follows from its subsequent division into three parts — a noun, a verb and an academic discipline. First then, management is a plural noun for ‘manager’. The management. This is an occupational group who have engaged in a very successful strategy of collective social mobility over a century or so. This word has emerged from a disparate collection of occupational nouns — owner, supervisor, superintendent, administrator, overman, foreman, clerk — and represents anyone engaged in the co-ordination of people and things. Nowadays, we find managers everywhere — in hospitals, universities and football clubs. Managers manage hotels, railway stations and art galleries — they are deemed to be universally essential. A new class of people has been created. Perhaps not a class in the classical Marxist sense, though that might not be too wide of the mark, but certainly a class in the sense of concepts. Second, the management practice management. The noun is also used as a verb. The same applies with a word like organisation. This is a verb that can be applied to the processes of ordering and controlling people and things. It implies a separation between the actual doing of whatever is being managed and the higher level function of controlling these processes. In other words, management is not intricately involved with any particular form of labour, but claims to co-ordinate the doing of all things. Today, it is constituted as a higher order of human activity which requires an elevation from the mundane in order to gain a better overall perspective. Though management may be etymologically linked with the hand, it is no longer a practice which is ‘hands-on’. Finally ‘Management’ is often the name of university departments that signifies (paid) engagement in the discipline of reading, writing and talking about what managers do and what management is. It is how I earn a living. This is certainly not a practice that can be isolated from the other two, simply because much of the output of this ‘discipline’ is shaped by, and in turn shapes, contemporary practices in both of the other areas. Management Departments, Business Schools, and so on, have become a ubiquitous part of higher education across the globe over the last fifty years or so. From origins in the USA, elements of commerce, economics, psychology and sociology have congealed into the B-School, the cash-cow for cash strapped university managers. Nowadays, Management claims to be a coherent discipline in itself, and its schools employ specialists to teach and research in human resource management, accounting and finance, marketing, strategy, operations and production management, business ethics, information systems, as well as a dizzying variety of specialist topics. The vast majority of the output from this global network of hundreds of thousands of texts, professors, journals, PhDs and conferences is unquestioningly supportive of the growth of all three of these meanings of management.


The rise of ‘management’ is one of the largest institutional legitimation and public relations campaigns in the history of thought, though it is rarely recognised as such. Over the last century, we have been collectively persuaded that you need to be an expert to organise, and that the signal-man is more important than the driver. That is why managers, leaders and executives are now paid such outrageous sums, because they are now imagined as the most important part of any organisation. Selling this idea has been a well-paid job too. The experts have books, courses or consultancy to take to market, but in order to make money they have to construct the idea of a certain lack in the target population. If you want to get someone to buy something, you need to persuade them that they need it, and that you have it. Hence, when it comes to matters of management, it is assumed that we need someone with an MBA to help us do it, because it has to be done and we can’t do it ourselves.

Organising ‘Don’t mourn, organize!’ Joe Hill7

But let’s consider a different word. If we ask, How are things organised?, we assume very little about what that particular arrangement looks like. Organising is a general ability for human beings, smart chimps who enjoy putting one thing on top of another. Asking about the ways in which human beings arrange and pattern their worlds is a general question, one that might be answered in different ways by any of the human sciences. It is a question that certainly might be answered by pointing to management, because that is a form of organisation, but it’s not the only one. I suppose the general shape of the question we are then asking has both a factual and an exploratory element to it, How do people and things come together to do stuff? That’s an enquiry which would produce descriptions of the shapes of the worlds that human beings make here and now, and that could be enlarged by adding descriptions from other times and places. History, politics, geography, design and anthropology would be just as relevant as sociology and economics. The point of collecting such descriptions then also might become a kind of catalogue of possibilities, perhaps answering the question, How can people and things come together to do stuff? Rather like a recipe book or toolbox, the catalogue doesn’t tell us what we should do, but what we can do, what we are capable of. If we break the question down a little, we can come up with two different ways to understand it. First, if we ask about the organisation of people then the sorts of answers we get might be classified as technical matters pertaining to descriptions of the organisation. This might involve size, structure, division of labour and spe-

7  Attributed to the labour organizer Joe Hill.


cialisation, tenure of position, tenure of employment, decision-making structure, physical location of members, what can be expected for and from the employee, employee ownership and raising of finance, the nature of rules (informal or formal), assumptions about growth, assumptions about core businesses, distribution of profits or losses, accountability, relation to customers or clients, forms of co-ordination, extent of flexibility and so on. There are a lot of different variables here, because there are lots of different ways of being organized. We can add something else to this to, because most forms of organization also come with a set of ideas and values which shape the exchange of things within and between organizations. So, we might then get answers about the organization of exchange which would describe who sells, who buys, what can be bought, sold or exchanged, when and where, for how much or how little, under what rules, using what medium of exchange, with what information, derived from where and audited by who, and to what end. If we then imagine putting these variables to work in order to complete the equation ‘Organisation + Exchange =’, our list of possibilities immediately becomes huge. We might imagine a list (which could be expanded into a very large dictionary8) with descriptions of actual institutions such as families, co-operatives, markets, kinship systems, groups, networks, communes, tribes, partnerships, local exchange trading systems, hierarchies, democracies, city-states, councils, teams, bureaucracies, corporations, trusts, monopolies, communities, autocracies, franchises, patriarchies, collectives, enterprises, professions, feudalism, family businesses, lineages, monopsonies,9 institutions, trade unions, states, companies, governments, clubs, cultures, totalitarianism, occupations, societies, matriarchies, solidarities, associations, villages, sects, phalanxes10 and so on. This is not an infinite list, because it is limited by what human beings have done so far and what we can find out about it, but just imagining it gives us an idea of the variability of ways in which we, clever chimps, have arranged our worlds.

Three Principles I think what the example above shows is that there are many, many alternatives to management as a general form of organising. Other worlds are possible. What it doesn’t do is to prescribe just which ones we should choose, and I want to say a little about this now. There are many ‘alternatives’ to the present, including fas-

8  Parker, M., Fournier, V., and Reedy, P., 2007. The Dictionary of Alternatives: Utopianism and Organization. London: Zed Books. 9  Editors' note: In economics a monopsony is a market form in which only one buyer interfaces with many sellers. Source: 10   Editors' note: The phalanx is a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas or similar weapons .(...) The term itself, as used today, does not refer to a distinctive military unit or division (for example, the Roman legion or the contemporary Western-type battalion) but to the general formation of an army’s troops. Source:


cism, feudalism, and slavery, but I am not advocating any of these here. Instead I’m going to suggest three broad orientations, values, logics or principles which might help us think about how and what sorts of alternatives agents might consider from the catalogue. First, any alternative worth exploring must be able to protect some fairly conventional notions of individual autonomy, that is to say, to respect ourselves. This is not a controversial or novel idea, but one that underpins most conservative, liberal and libertarian political philosophy. Words like liberty, diversity and difference are more often honoured in the breach rather than the observance, but still gesture, towards the radical proposal that individual freedoms really do matter. When we feel that we have been forced to do something that we don’t want to do, we are diminished in an important way. Any social arrangement which relies on coercion, of an economic, ideological or physical form should be treated with suspicion. Individuals should have choices about some of the most important ways in which they live their lives. If there is no autonomy within a given social system, only rules, then we are justified in calling it totalitarian, uniform and intolerant of difference. For most people this will be an easy principle to establish, because it underlies so much of the ideology which supports neo-liberal capitalism, and yet it contains a radical core which should lie at the heart of any robust ‘alternative’. The second principle reverses the assumptions of the first, and begins with the collective and our duties to others. This could be underpinned with forms of communist, socialist and communitarian thought and insists that we are social creatures who are necessarily reliant on others. This means that words like solidarity, cooperation, community and equality become both descriptions of the way that human beings are, and prescriptions for the way that they should be. On their own, human beings are vulnerable and powerless, victims of nature and circumstance. Collectively bound together by language, culture and organization, they become powerful, and capable of turning the world to their purposes. Perhaps even more important than this is the way in which we humans actually make each other, providing the meanings and care which allow us to recognise ourselves as ourselves. We are made through and with other humans in such a way that it is impossible to imagine even being human without some conception of a society to be oriented to. We, like bees, are social animals. As the proverb goes Ulla apis, nulla apis. ‘One bee is no bee’. Now it’s fairly clear that principle one and two are at best in tension with one another, and at worst contradictory. How can we be both true to ourselves, and at the same time orient ourselves to the collective? How can we value freedom, but then give it up to the group? The answer is that these aren’t actually contradictions. For example, when we speak of being free, we usually mean ‘free to’, in the sense of being free to be able to exercise choices about who to vote for, what to buy and so on. This is precisely the idea of liberty that we are very often encouraged to imagine as being the pre-eminent principle around which our lives should be organized within a consumer society. But a moment’s thought also allows us to see that ‘freedom to’


is only possible if we also experience ‘freedom from’. As the political philosopher Isaiah Berlin put it, ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ liberty are not the same things, even if they appear to be aimed at the same goals.11 The individual freedom to be who we want to be rests on our freedoms from hunger, dislocation, violence and so on, which can only be pursued collectively. We can only exercise our autonomy within some sort of collective agreement which provides us with a shelter against events. So ‘freedom’ is an entirely abstract concept unless it is embedded within some sort of institutions. Otherwise, we might as well The individual freedom to be talk about being free to starve or to pay fees to an architect, or at liberty to become a refugee who we want to be rests on our freedoms from hunger, or political prisoner. The reverse is also true of course. As the dislocation, violence and history of the twentieth century showed very so on, which can only be clearly, just because a social system claims to pursued collectively be collective (whether communist, nationalist, capitalist or national socialist) it doesn’t mean that it is. Even if it is supported by a majority, there might be compelling reasons not to support certain dominant norms, to stand out against the mass. Strident claims to be representing others might actually provide a warrant for the powerful to do what they want. The suggestion that individual preferences should always be dissolved in the collective, and that any dissent from the dominant line is heretical, is one that we find in a wide variety of flavours. Liberty is usually suppressed in the name of a greater good – ‘the corporation’, ‘the people’, ‘the state’, ‘the nation’ – but what is common is that it requires conformity, fear, exile or death to enforce it. There is not such a merit in being collective that the destruction of all liberties is necessary in order to achieve it. The idea of creating the ideal human within the ideal city is one that requires that people and things which don’t fit are discarded, and that all the contradictions and politics of real people in real places are reduced to a ‘year zero’ from which we can begin again. It is because of such assumptions that assertions of individual liberty matter. The third principle is a little easier, in the sense that it presents a more direct challenge to the externalising tendencies of capitalism. Any alternative worth the name must have a responsibility to the future – to the conditions for our individual and collective flourishing. This will involve words which are used often nowadays, but not always taken very seriously as practices, such as sustainability, accountability, and progress. The economic and organisational structures of the present tend not to encourage such responsibilities, instead treating people and planet as resources which can be used for short term gain by a few. In large part, these are matters which bear upon questions of climate change, environmental degradation, and loss of biodiversity, but not exclusively. The conditions for our individual and

11  Berlin, I., 1969. Two Concepts of Liberty. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


collective flourishing are also institutional and cultural, and hence any responsibility to the future must also have regard to the sorts of people and things we design, and the sort of organisational arrangements that they make, and that make them. This means, for example, being attentive to what technologies do to us and for us; what sort of assumptions about democracy and hierarchy we embed into our workplaces; or how the architecture of our dwellings separates home from work, or women from men. Responsibility is a term which presses us to think about all sorts of consequences, which encourages us to respond to the future and not insulate ourselves with the usual arguments which merely end up displacing problems to some other place and some other time. What we have here then are three principles (autonomy, collectivity and responsibility) which are required of alternative forms of organisation, which must be negotiated and understood by ourselves, with others, and to our future. All three are elements of what it might mean to be alternative and any one in isolation is insufficient. An organisation which only defends individual the balance liberty will not be able to co-ordinate very much, but an between individualism organisation which only demands collective loyalty must and collectivism necessarily expel disagreement. And, since we don’t know will also be written and probably won’t agree on what the future should look like, then the balance between individualism and collectivacross our futures ism will also be written across our futures. These three cannot be treated as matters that can ever be solved for once and for all, but rather as concerns that must be raised, and addressed, in the certain knowledge that there will always be disagreements, and that organising never ends.

Schools for Organising ‘Revolt, the destruction of wealth, and social sabotage of the structures of power have in fact always been schools of organization.’12 Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri

In a sense, Marx was right. Architects and bees are different. But embedded in this insight about the capacities of human beings to plan and pattern their world is another assumption that people need other people to plan for them. I suppose we might expect that from Marx. He was a Marxist after all, and many of his disciples have assumed that a strong leader and party discipline is the only way to get things done. Just like the building in your local university with a grand sign that proclaims the ‘University of X Department of Management’, or the ‘X University Business

12  Hardt, M. and Negri, A., 2011. Commonwealth: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 237-238.


School’, or the ‘(Insert Rich Man’s Name Here) Institute of Commerce’. In that building, people are teaching about management, a practice conducted by the powerful and their minions. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, a great deal of organising is going on. Major examples of contemporary organising include families, worker self-management, queues, communes, co-operatives, social movements, pressure groups, tribes, communities, mobs, gangs, cities, clubs, complementary currencies, schools, utopias, segmentary lineage systems,13 piracy and the mafia. Bees too, in hives and in representations of hives, in swarms and multitudes, seem to manage themselves without advice from B-schools. Human beings have organised themselves in a vast variety of patterns. These patterns vary historically, geographically, culturally, politically and so on. In fact, the multiplicity of differences seems to far exceed any Bees too, in hives and in similarities, unless we remain at the highest level of representations of hives, generalisation. Faced with such a dizzying range of in swarms and multitudes, specific procedures, we might first stop for a moment, enjoy the view, and then start to begin to learn from seem to manage themthis multiplicity. If we want to learn how to produce selves without advice forms of organising that provide us all with nice from B-schools things to eat and do, interesting people to talk to, and beautiful works of art and design, then we have a rich range of successes and failures to look at. It would be sensible to learn from what other people have already tried, unless we really think that we are the cleverest people who have ever lived. So, I would like to imagine a new and emerging school for organising, and for organisers. It might have nothing to do with the university busy-ness school, but it would teach everything from Angelic Choirs to the Zapatista, and it would certainly not restrict itself to interbreeding varieties of market managerialism. This will be a school for busy bees who want to learn from other places, other times, other politics, and to consider the relevance of these lessons for their own attempts to create organisations. It will not be a finishing school for global managerialism, or an extended exercise in legitimating inequality. Of course, to build such an institution will take time, but here’s a quick fix. Take your spray can (or more likely your indelible ink flip chart marker), and find the Business School of your local university. Turn to the sign and then sub-vertise its arrogant demands for hierarchy, leadership and capitalism with a generous invitation to learn about organizing. All of it, not just management.

13  Editors' note: A segmentary lineage society is characterized by the organization of the society into segments; what is often referred to as a tribal society. A simple, non-anthropologist’s explanation is that the close family is the smallest and closest segment, and will generally stand with each other. That family is also a part of a larger segment of more distant cousins and their families, who will stand with each other when attacked by outsiders. They are then part of larger segments with the same characteristics. Source:


Standing up for a new understanding of work.

Frauke Hehl (FH) is the co-founder and director of the workstation ideenwerkstatt Berlin e.V. as well as co-founder of the project unvermittelt of the NGBK Berlin ( and an initiator of the ideenaufruf (idea-finder), which focuses on sustainable city development and participation. Amongst many other projects, Frauke is very active in the urban gardening scene and also works as a lecturer for youth and adult education. She studied architecture with a focus on social urban development in Milano, Italy. Antonia Schui (AGS) wonders what empowers individuals to act in self-determined ways, and how people can, as individuals and groups, redesign society with passion and enjoyment. To create spaces for change she supports individuals and initiatives in emancipatory processes. She has a background in education, and she is currently focusing more on journalistic work, amongst other for CONTRASTE magazine for self-organisation. Interviewed by KM.



The interplay of individual and collective needs with Frauke Hehl & Antonia Gerlinde Schui, workstation ideenwerkstatt1

workstation ideenwerkstatt e.V. is a non-profit association based in Berlin whose diversity of projects are mainly concerned with the topic of work. It was founded in 1998 by the artist collective Wochenklausur as a reaction to the high unemployment in Berlin-Kreuzberg during that time. According to their usual procedure, Wochenklausur2 left the project to capable hands after three months of research and public events. Ever since, its practice has developed over more than fifteen years. We met two of workstation’s activists and organisers, Frauke Hehl and Antonia Gerlinde Schui in a cosy café near Tempelhofer Park3 for a chat. You might get this question quite a lot, but I will still ask: What is workstation, its focus and what does it do? FH: I always describe the workstation as a support platform for people and initiatives aiming at societal change. Both on an individual scale, which I find really important for people who are trying to achieve something for themselves, but also on a broader scale for the whole society, which is equally important. It is about both, the interplay of individual and collective needs. It is of no use if people work themselves into the ground for society's sake without taking care of their own good. AGS: I would add to this short definition of workstation as a platform that most projects are somehow connected to the topic of work. Work defined in a broader sense, such as participative urban design, urban gardening and so on.

1 2  Wochenklausur is an international artist group operating since 1993, developing concrete proposals to improve socio-political deficiencies. Artistic creativity is no longer seen as a formal act but as an intervention into society. 3  Tempelhofer Park is the former airport field Berlin-Tempelhof turned into a huge city park, the largest you can find in Berlin. One of workstation’s projects, the community garden Allmende Kontor, is located on the field. More info:


If I understood well, the topic of work was the starting point for workstation when it was initiated by the artist collective Wochenklausur as an answer to the high unemployment in Berlin in the end of the 1990s. I am interested in the extended definition of work, so, what's your definition of it? AGS: For me, work is every act that is aimed at achieving something. FH: Doing the things that I want to do motivated by whatever reason. For me, there is no separation of work and leisure time. I rather Being active is work, define this difference between being active and taking and all of the things a break. I find it very important to differentiate between that are necessary in life those things. Being active is work, and all of the things that are necessary in life. I'm not saying having lunch is work, even though it's a necessity, but still we need and want to do these things in order to get somewhere. Work is mostly defined and motivated by the monetary value that is received in exchange. Unpaid work is not respected in the same way as paid labour. People who are actively doing something meaningful without the framework of employment are often labelled and perceived as 'unemployed'. Do you try to fathom new definitions of work in your projects, for example when you are working with unemployed people? AGS: I'd say yes. One thing workstation is concerned with is to create scope for development for people who want to turn projects into reality and for those who do not find payment in the world of gainful employment. It gives people the possibility to still do what they wish to do. FH: From the very beginning, we have had opportunities through the Job Centre’s4 measures for the promotion of employment such as state-funded positions. With this support, we constantly try to create suitable frameworks for people who have a project in mind. With the introduction of Hartz IV5 in 2005, the money went straight to the organisations and we had to offer the so-called ‘One Euro jobs’.6 Ever since, it's been a lot more difficult. The parameters of the Job Centre are very restrictive and these days, we have much less freedom than before Hartz IV was started. Still, even if the conditions are harsh, people receive the opportunity to do something meaningful even if it's not for a lot of money. It was good to have the support of the district to enable us to offer One Euro jobs. Each year, they lobbied for us to be able to offer these very self-dependent

4  The Job Centre is the German unemployment agency for long-term unemployed and people who have not been in a fixed position for more than a year and turn unemployed. 5  HartzIV: unemployment benefits paid by the German state. See Hartz concept. Source: Wikipedia, http:// 6  Ein Euro Jobs (One Euro Jobs): German concept of unpaid work opportunities with additional cost compensation, introduced as part of the Hartz concept to increase employment and decrease welfare costs. The aim of these working opportunities is to aid the long-term unemployed in becoming accustomed to regular work again and thus increase their chances of securing paid employment. Source: Wikipedia,


job opportunities. We did not prescribe what they had to do, we only asked them to do what they wanted to do. When we were asked to rate people employed with us we decided at some point not to continue doing this because it didn’t leave us enough freedom anymore and just did not correlate with our philosophy. So you completely left this out of your work at workstation? FH: We still have individual state-funded positions for people who want to do something or are already doing something. For them, it is a relief to be integrated in a measure promoted by the Job Centre. But when it comes to numbers, we totally reduced these kinds of employments. At some point, it started to get out of hand. We didn't have the accounting staff to do all the book-keeping. It's a lot of paperwork, if not a paper war. AGS: We had one working group on the topic 'promoted positions', in which we follow a self-directed approach to work. People For many, it is too much who want to have a position have to govern of a challenge to be told: themselves autonomously. Of course, when decisions have to be made others become involved, Just do what you want! but the main idea is to question the relationship How work is understood is between employer and employee.

deeply rooted in society

What kind of measures and projects do you undertake at workstation? FH: Various things, for example, many different gardening projects, but also projects where people were already actively volunteering somewhere and became 'employed' through the integration in our program. There was always the possibility for people to come up to us and suggest something. The Job Centre kept sending us unemployed to do One Euro jobs with us. Then, the motivation is

A street performance on work.


always different and people expect us to tell them what to do. For many, it is too much of a challenge to be told: Just do what you want! How work is understood is deeply rooted in society. A One Euro job feels like a punishment where people have to obey someone. It makes things much easier, doesn’t it? FH: Once, there were two women who were really difficult to deal with because they didn't want to listen to anyone, so they were sent to us. “With workstation, you have to do what you want to!” they were told. (everybody laughs) In the beginning, they loved it. After a while, they started complaining and asked “Please, could you tell us what to do, we don't know what to do with ourselves!” They both found out for themselves that this was not the way they wanted to work. It was way too tiring to think about their wants every day. They both stopped working with us and found jobs that offered enough freedom, but also fixed working hours and certain restrictions. It was tiresome. What a nice story... FH: Yes, it was great to watch the process. They realised they did not want to want! When it became clear, they were able to find a job. You can only find what is clear for you. It's a long and important process to find out these things for oneself. We're constantly confronted with certain ways of how to work. Already in school, we are taught to compete in order to achieve something in life. It is difficult to break out of these patterns and look for individual routes. How was it with you guys, how did you get involved with workstation and its activities? AGS: I joined much later than Frauke. I think it was four or five years ago? Frauke and I met in an exhibition at the end of 2008 and workstation offers a way had our first conversation back then. I was selffor each person to find out employed in the area of education and fiddling how much of a framework around with my own little projects. What I was they individually need lacking was a framework for all this. I was looking for a physical space where I could sit in front of my computer, meet people and lead interesting conversations. With this wish in the back of my mind I called workstation. It was not possible to realise my wish in the way I had imagined, but when Frauke and I talked, she presented the whole project to me. That's when I realised: “Hey, I actually want to contribute to this also content-wise.” To add to our previous discussion, I have to say I find it very difficult to work without a given framework. I realised I need certain dates and deadlines when I am doing things that are really important for me. I cannot just live and work from day to day. What is so great about workstation is that it offers a way for each person to find out how much of a framework they individually need. What is too much,


what isn't enough? Who are the people I can work with? Like this, different points of contact can be made at workstation. I can totally relate to this problem. A certain framework really helps to support and motivate oneself, especially when you are self-employed. People sometimes need a mirror to realise, hey, what I am doing is actually meaningful! How was it with you, Frauke? FH: After I finished school, I lived in Rome for some time. Then, I moved to Milan to study architecture. I dropped out after some time. I was faced with the question of what to do with my life and how to make a living. I surprised myself when I realised I wanted to go back to Germany. Since I wanted to start all over again, I did not want to go back to my hometown, Hamburg. Berlin was the best option for me. I knew that not finishing my architectural studies would not make it easy to find a job. Until today, I don't have any final degree. Actually, it seems to be of advantage at the Job Centre because it makes you 'difficult to place', and so the positions they offer are usually more interesting! AGS: 'Best' factors are not having any final degrees, being sick, or addicted to drugs. Unfortunately, it is cynical that it makes 'sense' to fall into one of these groups! FH: I knew what kind of risk I was taking. All the jobs that required a university degree were out of question for me. Since I was putting a lot of thought into this topic and it affected me, Wochenklausur's project immediately appealed to me: thinking about work, what it means, what I really want. They had a very open approach with the project, they saw it as a beginning which should be continued by the people in whatever ways they could. They never wanted to create a master plan for a project that should be put to practice one to one.. For me, these were perfect conditions to get involved with it. The project evolved depending on the people who were there and on what was possible. There was not a lot of us, but somehow it still kept developing. How was the whole project initiated? FH: Wochenklausur were here for three months. They had built up a little office in Bethanien residency for artists and were doing there are neither mental research and field work on location. In 1998, it was the time of the unemployment protests in nor physical spaces in our Berlin. Out of their research, they created difsocieties where people can ferent approaches for solutions that could bedevelop their ideas come integrated locally. The project was meant to be exemplary, meaning that they were well-aware of the fact that such a small project would not be able to solve such a huge problem, but would be able to initiate thoughts and other practical processes. They found out that there are neither mental nor physical spaces in our societies where people can develop their ideas. If you want something, you always need a business plan, but how do you get there in the first place? Before all that, there is


the long process of finding out what you actually want. Where are the space and the possibilities for this process of becoming before you can start doing what you want? It was their concern to create these spaces and possibilities in an exemplary way, a contact and meeting point where concrete ideas would find support. They imagined a data bank with all the skills and competences of people who would be willing to donate their knowledge in a so-called ‘development forum’ where people could come together and develop their ideas and dreams further. This was the initial idea. It did not exactly work out in this way. Why three months? And when did you enter the picture? FH: Wochenklausur look at their projects as a birth process over twelve weeks. The idea is always the same: to find people who would continue after this initial period in a project. They had contacted a group where I was an active member, an association that I got involved with after moving to Berlin on my search for a meaningful activity. We offered open seminars to people during weekends which dealt with similar ideas as Wochenklausur’s. They invited us to a podium discussion round. That's when I knew I would stay involved. What happened next, after Wochenklausur left workstation in your hands? FH: We did not get the state-funded positions to conduct the consulting work, but we were provided a space we could use for free for around three years. Still, things had not matured enough to just put them straight to practice. Often, it was simply the lack of people who wanted to get engaged. The few who were around were doing what they thought was the right thing to do. The process came out of our instincts. Are you still in touch with the group of artists? FH: Yes, with one of the main initiators of Wochenklausur still living in Vienna. We just recently were in touch with him to contribute to our book.7 I had sporadic contact with a woman who was also part of the collective, but at some point decided to turn her back to them. “Artist, retired”, she calls herself these days. She thought the work ethos of the collective was too neoliberal and did not correspond to their own critique of it. I was also in touch with a guy from Hamburg. There are two others in Berlin, but somehow we never stayed in touch. How did you manage to stay with this project during all this time? It's been more than 15 years already! FH: It was my very personal topic and therefore, I could always relate to it. I never wanted to do work that I would not be able to identify with. With all the processes

7  workstation ideenwerkstatt, ed., 2012. Von Grasmöbeln, 1-€-Jobs und Anderem - ein Portrait der workstation ideenwerkstatt berlin. Neu-Ulm: AG SPAK Bücher.


we're constantly going through I learn a lot, it's always been a space for experimentation for me, too. I had never worked with the Job Centre before, all the time there were new things that I had never been confronted with before. You learn lots like this. Of course, many questions arise throughout the process. I wonder, how do you manage to sustain the workstation and your own work in our neo-liberal system? Do you use alternative currencies based on other values than money to be less dependent of the system? AGS: I found my own way of dealing with this: I live off ALG II8 and am involved in different projects, of which some are paid and others aren't. My work for workstation is not paid. I consider ALG II as the imperfect version of the basic income. FH: I would separate between material expenses such as office rent, computers, software and such and salaries for people's work. When it comes to material expenditures, we always look to share things with others. Our office for example is really small and partly used by a youth club. We can jointly use all the surrounding areas according to arrangements. It saves renting a huge meeting space which might be used only three times a month. Sharing and cooperating is really important for us. We only use free software that is open-source. We help people to realise their projects, and automatically, people want to give something back. There is a lot of support in the background that could be activated if needed. We try to minimise We help people to realise regular costs for our structure. their projects, and When it comes to salaries, it's a different story. Of course, money only comes in when it is organised. automatically, people want This can happen through state-funded positions, to give something back social benefits, project funds or any other kind of financial resources that are somehow acquired. The material expenses are sustained through collaborations and minimal individual shares and donations. Did you have times when things were really tough? FH: When we had just founded the non-profit association as a basis for the project, we had a difficult phase with not enough active people around. We considered giving it all up. I was basically working for free then and I had to live of social welfare during that time. But my dad says it does not really matter if it's the social welfare office or the district exchange that is paying your salary if the work you do benefits society. Totally! In a way, it's society employing you! I am sure people would be happy to pay taxes for societal work.

8  ALG II is the abbreviation of ‘Arbeitslosengeld II’ (aka Hartz IV), the German unemployment benefits that cover basic monthly expenses.


FH: It's all a question of distribution. I had enough to survive, I don't need much. Above all, you receive so much more beyond the monetary value — social recognition, you learn a lot, meet and get to know great people, get invited to give a talk or participate in network meetings, get travels financed and all these things which I perceive as a sort of income as well. It's worth much more than a big salary and hating your job...! How did the project develop over the years? What were the main difficulties and challenges? FH: I would say it has constantly evolved. As a matter of fact, the project has existed for fifteen years because I have always been around to take care of it. I am not saying that I've been doing it all by myself, but I was always a central point and mediator between people. A lot of things happen this way. There are always new people joining, but they always support parts only, and not the whole project. Therefore, I sometimes find it quite difficult to find the transition away from this ‘centralistic’ structure to a more distributed one. It is a strange form. At the same time, we collaborate with some partners that have supported us in many projects over the past years. What they value is to work with an organisation where decision-making is quick and not a collective process where everything needs to be discussed first with everyone. They enjoy being able to call Frauke, receive a straight answer and hand over the sponsoring the next day. There are certain advantages, but it is also really difficult to move away from this structure. How many are you in the association? AGS: When it comes to decision-making, we have had the advisory board and steering committees over the last two years. The association itself does not play a large role — we summon a bigger meeting once a year for all members. There are some people who take care of specific responsibilities, such as our website editorial and book-keeping. Their contribution is not separated from what they do, but rather is an interest in workstation. We also have project meetings for all the different projects that are supported by workstation. Those meetings are more frequent and they lead to an exchange amongst the projects. Therefore, it is kind of difficult to say how many people are actually involved with workstation because there are so many people involved in one way or another. How many projects do you have running at the moment? FH: It's a question of what you define as a project. We have projects and we cooperate with others who evolved with us but are independent. Tell me something about your recently published book Von Grassmöbeln, 1€-jobs und anderem – Ein Portrait der workstation ideenwerkstatt e.V.!9


FH: We're currently planning to make another edition, this one is not selling very well. It was printed digitally by our publisher. We're selling them via book stores, the publisher, and also in our own office. The feedback is good, but people tend to buy it only if they already know about us and want to learn more. AGS: It is a pity. The book is, in a way, an extended business card. I think the topics are really relevant for the public discussion. It would be nice to reach out to a bigger audience. F: We're planning some changes, for example, the title does not work at all. About grass furniture, 1-€-jobs and other things — a portrait of workstation ideenwerkstatt e.V. does not tell anything to most people. People tend to always be We already wrote a different introducinterested even if they don’t tion and made some other small changes, but substantially, it stays the same. completely understand what Quite often, people just don't know and we’re doing. It makes it difficult understand where and how workstato apply for funds though tion is involved. AGS: 'Workstation' is a term from computer technology, it is a word that is not necessarily connected to us. It is very difficult to grasp. It seems to be a general problem with things that are not common practice. It's difficult to communicate to others. FH: People tend to always be interested even if they don't completely understand what we're doing. It makes it difficult to apply for funds though. It's great that people like what you're doing. FH: I really appreciate it, it's a luxury. Are you planning to somehow step out of your circles to approach politics on a bigger scale? FH: I am not motivated to make it a huge thing and become terribly successful and visible to everyone. We're already reaching out to so many different groups, we're quite satisfied with the outcomes. Thanks for your time and the interesting conversation!

9  The aim of the book was to introduce and present the work of workstation to a broader public to make their work better known and understood. See footnote 7 for more info.


Screenshot from the website of Thinkfarm.

Thinkfarm1 is a ‘slow working’ space in Berlin-Kreuzberg where people interested in the socio-ecological transition and the transformation to a sustainable society work and research next to each other. On a Friday afternoon, we visited Thinkfarm and met up with Corinna Fuchs (CF) and David Griedelbach (DG), who were both involved in its development from the very beginning and are now active coworkers in the space. Corinna works with the media agency Sinnwerkstatt2 and David with the local beer brewery Quartiermeister.3 Interviewed by KM.



Linking up work, life and research with Corinna Fuchs and David Griedelbach Thinkfarm Berlin

What was the motivation to establish Thinkfarm? CF: It started with the idea of creating a space where you could work, live, think and make together. The original version was also about having a space in nature with a garden and a farm, where we could do permaculture and collaborate with each other, build up networks and turn ideas into reality together. The main idea was to live what is being researched. Why not start something like this in Berlin? The way Sinnwerkstatt had been co-working with all sorts of other people already demonstrated that this kind of thing could work really well. On your website, you call yourselves a slow-working space (instead of co-working) — what exactly is that? DG: Personally, I find this really difficult to grasp. On one side, it is about doing something meaningful, doing something where you can recognise a purpose. This is one characteristic of the Thinkfarm. Beyond that, it is about reflecting on different ways of working. Work does not necessarily mean having a career and getting caught in the treadmill. As a large part of life it should be something that is enriching, not restraining. It is up to each individual how much they work, and with how much fun and efficiency. CF: One thing that also saves a lot of energy is simply sitting next to each other. For example, Sinnwerkstatt is currently working on Quartiermeister's website. Because we're sharing the same workplace we don't have to put any time or efforts into traveling back and forth to discuss things. And you're sharing the same philosophy. CF and DG: Absolutely.

1 2  A media agency with a focus on sustainable issues and clients. More info: 3  A beer brand with a social enterprise model. Profits go to social and cultural projects in the local neighbourhood. More info:


What kind of people work here? CF: Only beautiful people! (everyone laughs) What we all have in common is a big interest in the socio-ecological transition, an awareness for sustainability and the meaningfulness of work, doing something one feels passionate about. DG: We choose the people who work here, we don't just take anyone. It sounds a bit elitist, but since our focus is on the socio-ecological transition and the transformation to a sustainable society it is one of our selection criteria. Generally, we ask people about what they do. If they, for example, freelance for a large corporation that is not concerned with sustainability at all, then they might not be a good fit. Also, it has to work on a personal level for which we have an application process where several people get to meet the applicant to then decide democratically. CF: What is important is to be ready to support this place. It only exists because responsibilities are shared amongst all. It's the first important thing to be willing to participate in contributing to Thinkfarm in one way Thinkfarm is a Commons or another. in a way. It only exists and DG: Commitment is a crucial factor. This place is selfcan be used as a resource governed, which also makes it possible to have such low because everyone prices. People pay only a fraction of what normal coworking spaces cost. Therefore, our co-workers have is responsible for it to contribute somehow to make this place sustainable. CF: I think it is really fascinating. Thinkfarm is in a way a Commons. It only exists and can be used as a resource because everyone is responsible for it. It is beautiful — everyone can feel the responsibility and therefore everyone feels a part of it, knowing that it is only thanks to one's contribution that Thinkfarm continues to exist. How can people contribute, and how do they contribute? DG: We have working groups for all the administrative work. We have several self-determined groups that can volunteer to take care of, for example, drinks or construction work, legal issues, contracts, organising the work spaces, finances, organisational development... Generally, those are all consortia that have formed themselves and are responsible for the respective areas. For bigger decisions we have a plenary. The plenary is a bi-weekly meeting of all Thinkfarmers where we vote about urgent matters such as new acquisitions or new members. A sense of community seems to be crucial here — are there certain things you do in order to support the development of the community, such as communal lunches or other activities? DG: In fact, this is something we're currently working on. We want to foster more growth inside our community because we realised that the turnover is quite high. We are around 50 to 60 people who come and go. Sometimes, you bump into people you don't know or haven't seen before. It depends on everyone's individual way of dealing with new people, I would just shake hands and introduce myself. We aim to find new formats and ways to support the social cohesion within Thinkfarm. Our ‘Lunch of love’4 is part of it, but also diverse other activities such as regular court-


yard parties where people can get to know each other, and where people from the ‘outside’ are also invited. There is a variety of ideas, but in the end, it depends on each individual to decide whether it happens or not. CF: Community is more the idea of a network for me. Since everyone has a shared focus around here, much more than simply a network comes into being. This also contributes to the corporate feeling, to see overlapping interests and the collaborations that develop out of it. DG: These synergies are our aim, to bring people with a similar philosophy and common goals together so that the result is more than simply the sum of its parts. What kind of new projects and initiatives come into being at Thinkfarm? DG: There are two concrete initiatives right now that developed out of existing synergies; one is the Transition Lab,5 a group doing research on an academic level about transition. They bring their findings together and present them here on a regular basis. The other initiative was started by one of our co-workers, the Creative Lab, which aims to acquire projects for freelancers which can be executed together. It's a loose temporary conglomerate that helps people get all the expertise that might be needed for a project together. Collaboration is happening at all times, but beyond that, we make full use of the existing synergies, asking each other for support when local expertise and skills are readily available. Tell me more about the Transition Lab — did it just develop out of a local initiative or was it actually planned to integrate research into Thinkfarm? CF: It was something that was planned from the very beginning since all we do is about research and living. A lot of impulses came from the Degrowth Network (Netzwerk Wachstumswende6), which is a network where you can find a lot of researchers. I know from my own experience, having written my Master’s thesis in this area, that there is not much research being done. Most universities either don't know about it or are simply not interested. Therefore, the idea of doing the research where things are being put into practice was there from the start. How do you finance yourselves, simply with the monthly fees people are paying for their workplaces, or are there other ways as well? DG: Our members are mostly freelancers, self-employed and organisations, they pay their monthly contributions to pay for the rent. Because of our self-governing organisational model, we are distributing all the administrative work so that it rests on everyone's shoulders. We don't have a business model behind it, so if there is a surplus at the end of the month it is being reinvested in the infrastructure and

4  For the ‘Lunch of Love’, everybody brings one ingredient he/she loves dearly, from which a shared meal is prepared together. 5  More info: 6  The aim of the international Degrowth movement is the socio-ecological transition to a more sustainable society and economy. More info: and


the community. The more people we're sharing the space with, the more money we can collect for the community, therefore we're all interested in finding enough people to fill in all available work desks. Most co-workers have their own agenda in terms of work, but still we all get together here and share common activities. CF: Basically, it works like a flat-sharing community. Everyone has their own lives, but with space for communal life. What happens if one flatmate just moves out and stops paying the rent? DG: We try to fill in empty spots quickly. So far, it has worked quite well, even though there is a high fluctuation rate. But somehow we always managed so far. You mentioned in the beginning the initial plan was to have a garden where to do permaculture. Are there any further plans on combining the urban with nature? CF: It's still my plan for sure! (laughs) The concept of Thinkfarm was something different at the beginning. It has been transformed to suit an urban setting. The desire for a garden was very strong, but when these urban spaces opened up for rent it just seemed like a stroke of luck helping us to initiate Thinkfarm. The most important was to just start and not wait for too long until the perfect location would be found. A lot of people around here are keeping their eyes open for a location with a garden. I am convinced that in the next years, another Thinkfarm branch in nature will come into existence. DG: This plan exists, there are even first signs of cooperation with other initiatives that are dedicated to similar alternative ways of living. Things are on their way, but it's not ripe yet for decision. CF: We have a first cooperation that is almost in nature, with the GrĂźnhof7 in Freiburg, whereby Thinkfarmers can just walk into GrĂźnhof and work from there if they're on the road traveling. The same works the other way around. Is there any collaboration with other groups or organisations? DG: Each one of our co-workers brings in quite large networks already. Of course, we collaborate with other groups that have similar interests, but we don't really have that many official collaborations. Everyone is quite busy with their own things. CF: But the larger vision is still to spread our networks as far as possible, to have groups to collaborate with everywhere. That's really important to us. What do you do to interact with the general public? Are there any attempts to spread your ideas to the outside? DG: We launched our Facebook page one year after initiating Thinkfarm. First of all, it was important for us to find out what we actually wanted to do here before inviting a lot of journalists and making our work public. I believe it's opening up now. We are still in the development phase, we don't even have a legal form yet



which would be our next big step. Because of most people are quite active networking, other networks already know about us. CF: We had 100 ‘likes’ within one hour only, if you can measure it like that! (everyone laughing). So non-Thinkfarmers are welcome around here? DG: Yes, of course! We always invite people to our activities through our mailing list, and now through Facebook, which will also open up the access for more publicity, journalists, etc. We don't want to be a closed elitist circle doing its own thing ignoring the rest of the world. Quite the opposite: we're made up of initiatives that develop sustainable alternatives to show everyone that another world is possible. Were there any major difficulties or problems during the development of Thinkfarm? CF: Well, from the outside, it always looked great to me. DG: Which it is! But of course, in a self-governed project leaving a lot of space for freedom you always have a lot of friction between people. No organisation is immune against issues such as lack of commitwe’re made up of initiatives ment or unreliability. We continue improving that develop sustainable processes, but we never had any existential crises. Three months ago, we wanted to grow alternatives to show everyone more but many people voted against it. They that another world is possible wanted to understand first how we could develop internally, which was a bit of a setback for the development of our ideas. At the same time, it's good to first establish what we have before opening up to more people. Your future plans for Thinkfarm? DG: Form a legal entity, build up something in the countryside, and generally, cooperate more with organisations that are doing similar things. CF: Another thing would be to support others to establish similar spaces such as Thinkfarm, kind of like a consulting service. DG: Also, we aim to improve the way decisions are made. We had discussions on introducing the sociocratic model. Of course, things move on more slowly because decisions are always made together, but that might be healthier for everyone. CF: Slow is also a relative term... DG: A personal topic for me is how to combine living and working. We work here and spend a lot of time together, but why can't we integrate work into our lives? So most people who work here live spread all over the city? CF: Yes. It was one of the original ideas of Thinkfarm, to live and work in community. In practical terms we realised it's not that easy. People live with their families and have their own structures, so it is something that can only develop slowly. I find the idea of linking up work and life extremely exciting. Thanks a lot for your time and the interesting conversation!


Workshop at Anselma, the public studio. © Anselma.

Anselma is a co-working space in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where one can visit to make and/or produce a variety of things. It is a design, making and production studio also used by permanent residents as personal workspace for crafting leather bags, clothing, producing video, photography and music. But, Anselma is also open to the public. There are courses and workshops for those who want to learn how to make products from clothing, jewellery to videos. The Š-fitness (sewing fitness) facilities, such as the studio and tools. can be rented for a day. Anselma is also a place for social networking since there are various events, exhibitions and other projects open to the public. Anselma stands for collaboration, the intertwining of different fields and the conservation of the knowledge of handicraft. It is a crossroad of active people and ideas on the way to realisation. Ana Malalan started sewing at the age of twelve, a fashion designer and former student of architecture, she used to be freelance tailor, then worked in architecture studios, published ‘Supertailoring’ and launched Anselma. Currently she runs Anselma, her sewing courses and teaches sewing in the High School of Design Ljubljana.

Case Study

Anselma — the ‘everything is possible’ public studio by Ana Malalan

Purpose/aim of the project: Anselma was born from the need for a shared creative work-space. It was never theoretical but led by practical needs. The aim is to provide an equipped space to make things, where people can connect from different fields of interests, and to promote and cherish practical knowledge and disappearing crafts. Names of people involved: Ana Malalan (Founder, Tailor, Fashion Designer, Architect, Producer), TanjaPađan (Kiss the Future — Fashion Designer), Nataša Kovač (Vandalimorale — Fashion Designer), TomažŠantl (Hairdresser, Skater, Photographer), the group Sveže sadje (Fresh Fruit), teachers and an Economist. Also involved: Tina Hočevar (Architect), Janez Kocman (IT), Tjaša Mavrič (Architect), Martina Obid Mlakar (self-employed, cultural worker in restoration and design), Hana Karim (Jewellery Designer), Niko Novak (Scenographer and Musician), Lena Gregorčič (Linguist), Milka Marin (student in fashion design) and others. Key stakeholders: The permanent residents of Anselma since they affect Anselma’s state and vice versa, Anselma affects their work. There are also other users and visitors (more or less frequent) who have a smaller stake in it, since they need or use the space, tools and other resources. Geographic location: Anselma is based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The studio is a converted old apartment in the city centre. Anselma is more of an idea than a place, so even though it is bound to its location, for practical reasons, it could be transferred anywhere. Supported by: There wasn’t any external funding involved. Start date/Finish date: Anselma started to develop in February 2010, but was officially launched in September 2011. We hope it never ends. Website or other online resources:,


BEGINNING What triggered the project? The trigger was that the former space used by Ana for her sewing course wasn’t being used at its best. The courses occupied the space only ten to twenty per cent of the time. Also, the course participants had a need for individual consultations and their personal space for sewing, since they didn’t have a sewing room at home. So the idea of Š-fitness (sewing fitness) was born and Ana started to search for an appropriate space. She found a perfect flat to turn into a studio, The motivation was but it was too big for her needs, so she decided to expand the idea. the love of teaching, Ana invited other artists to join and develop the original idea into the need for a space a co-working studio accessible also to the public, where anything for courses, a great can be made. This became Anselma.

way of life and making a living

What was your motivation? The first motivation was the love of teaching, the need for a space for courses, a great way of life and making a living. Now the motivation is to develop Anselma even further and someday make it a role model. Are there similar projects, did these stimulate you, and are you linked to them in any way? When it was founded in September 2011 there were no similar projects of which we knew about, with similar ideas of co-working, sharing and handcraft studios. These started to emerge just recently, at least in Slovenia. How did the idea evolve? Initially the idea was that Anselma would strictly be about sewing, sewing courses and similar activities. In its organic nature it evolved in quite another direction. Anselma is really about the people involved, so with every new face, the face of Anselma changes. Initially the group was composed of three fashion designers, one of them an architect, then came people dedicated to video, photography and music, ceramic and jewellery designers joined, later architects, painters and so on. With a big focus still on sewing this was an evolution towards an even more mixed and colourful range of activities, programmes and crowd that uses our space. What are/were key organisational aspects and organisational structures? The organisational structure is like Space. There is the sun, key planets and lots of satellites. The main character (Founder) would be Ana Malalan who started the whole project. Ana runs Anselma, supported by resident Tanja Pađan, a fashion designer working under the name ‘Kiss the Future’. Current residents that have a big role are also: Tomaž Šantl, video and photography professional, Nataša Kovač, leather goods designer and a group called Sveže sadje (Fresh Fruit), working with video


and music. With their presence and engagement they all contribute daily to the image and development of Anselma. There are other collaborators, more projects, workshops, and exhibiting artists helping to organise events. There are also a number of people, who do not have a specific role in the processes of Anselma, but as friends and visitors they also define and contribute in an important way. Was the organisation informal or formal? Anselma is a formal organisation, a regular company — on paper. In real life, it is an experience. Target audience and network(s)? Anselma doesn’t really have a target audience, since its engagement is too vast for a strict definition of audience. Every event that happens here attracts a different kind of crowd. Sometimes we even get surprised and amused by so many different combinations. The main focus stays on the courses’ participants and workshops, since those are the most frequent activities. Users are mostly women from twentyfive to thirty-five years old with an interest in handicrafts, from diverse social and cultural groups. Regular visitors are programmers, artists, architects, skaters, economists and so on, all with an interest in culture, art and music, from twenty to fifty years old, and all strong characters. Events attract very mixed audiences.

Workshop at Anselma, the public studio. © Anselma.


Key funding/financial aspects? Anselma’s financial moto is: spend as much as you make. There is no funding, it was all created from scratch, and from the earnings of previous engagements.

ACTING & DOING What are/were the key activities? There is a wide range of activities going on and they all depend on the time and people involved. Since the constellation of the people involved changes all the time, the activities change accordingly. Anselma is used differently by each person. There are the residents that use it as their workspace, the course participants that use it for learning purposes, visitors of events, exhibitions and similar use it for their pleasure, networking, mingling and hanging out. Anselma's activities are also gatherings between friends in our living room where ideas, collaborations and projects are born on a daily basis. Nevertheless the key activities are education, handicrafts, workspace sharing, Š-fitness, courses and workshops, and residents that work on their products and/or projects. What are/were the key approach & methods? Anselma is a comfortable and cosy space, so everybody can feel at home right away. The atmosphere is relaxed and natural, without pressure or stress. The environment provides tools and space to motivate making something, or for those who just visit a nice living room for a chat with interesting people. It functions like a big family, where everybody is welcomed and involved. We try to give the best we can and this seems to work. How did you get people participating? It started from the mailing list of personal contacts, which slowly expanded to the list ‘friends of friends’ and later spread further also with the help of media. The users were triggered to participate through interesting courses and programmes, the residents started to participate on the base of friendship or the need of a place for their own studio.

The co-working space. © Anselma.


Handcrafted leather bags made in Anselma. © Tomaž Šantl.

What is essential for practical matters? Since Anselma functions in a very organic and spontaneous way the only real practical matter is the shared workspace. We feel that the co-working space itself is the only real physical matter that links everybody and everything going on. Of course for some activities, the essentials are also the tools, like sewing machines, irons, tables, etc., for others computers and speakers. What are/were the key communication channels and methods? We try to keep it simple. Web page, mailing list, social network but most importantly: spreading the message person to person. Media use and efficacy? In the beginning we also managed to achieve the attention of the press, especially with the Š-fitness idea and the release of Ana’s book Superkrojenje (Super Tailoring) a manual on tailoring and garment construction published in 2011by Mladinska Knjiga publishing house. The story of Anselma was published in several newspapers, magazines and web portals. This helped to spread the word and reach a larger public. But on the long term the most important is always to be at our best so that happy visitors spread the good word. First-hand recommendations are always the most effective. What are/were the outcomes with reference to the target audience? We managed to form a steady group of permanent residents, occasional collaborators andvisitors using the studio on a regular basis. Also the followers and users of our supplies are strong and growing. In between of it all, a very important outcome is that lots of connections, collaborations and knowledge exchanges have arisen. What are/were the impacts - target audience and wider? Impacts are quite broad, like everything in Anselma. For example, some visitors got inspired to start making their own clothes, videos, jewellery etc. Some were impressed and inspired by the way Anselma unites working and living in a harmonic balance. Others are encouraged to try something new, found a new collaborator, partner or just a new idea that was triggered by someone else's work.

REFLECTING & SUSTAINING How is the project sustained? Anselma is based on the idea that it should sustain itself and so it does. It finances its needs through the organisation of courses and workshops, and contributions of its residents for using the workspace.


What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? We use human, social and any other capital available. Is it self-sustaining now or will it be in the future? Anselma is strictly self-sufficient and independent. No funding was, is and, hopefully, won’t be involved. Are you happy with the project? Yes. But we are constantly working on making it even better. Would you change anything? Well, if one knew the future, they would for sure make a lot of different choices. We did not know what we were building exactly, so we were pretty much experimenting. From the perspective of ‘now’, sure, we would change some things, but mostly these are details not worth mentioning. It turned out just fine. Was the project as you expected or did you encounter anything unexpected? Since nobody knew what to expect, everything was unexpected. The idea was pretty much open and not so defined, so there was a lot of space for the unknown. As a new form of organisation, activity and business it was hard to predict or expect anything. At the beginning there was a lot of experimenting, testing and searching ways for Anselma to function properly or better. With time we established a rhythm that works, but we are constantly developing and adapting it to new ideas, needs and demands. Is the project scalable? We guess it is, even though our public studio is still small and local. It could easily be expanded and enlarged with a bigger space, more residents and more activities going on, it can be scaled-up quickly. What are your future plans? There are two parallel plans: one concerning the co-working space Anselma itself, and the other, the development of the main activity – education (sewing courses). Those two, even though linked and combined, follow their own separate paths. The educational part, from where Anselma arose, dreams to turn into a school, a university which studies clothes in a broader way. Not just the aspect of fashion design, or just sewing. The dream is that anybody could take part, regardless of age, culture or previous education. In the meantime Ana is working on the second release of her book, and she is developing online courses and an interface for tailoring to enable people to learn about sewing at home, and to expand Anselma in a viral way. As far as Anselma the public studio is concerned, the general plan is to sustain itself, expand its community, programmes and supply and in general get better


and better. Anselma dreams to be the leader in production, craft and handicraft, a place where one could come for any kind of product or project realisation. We would like to expand also the workspace itself. Just recently Anselma has been discussing a new vision which involves moving to a less urban environment on the outskirts of Ljubljana in a house with more rural surroundings, an outdoor space and a garden. This would for sure affect the structure and activities of Anselma, there could be more outdoor work, such as a workshop for wood and metal work, maybe even a garden with home grown vegetables. We feel that is may be time to leave the urban city life.

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What are tangible outputs of the project? Overall there were about 800 people involved. They, and residents of Anselma, made hundreds of products (clothes, accessories, jewellery, etc.) and produced a vast number of personal and common projects. We also produced some exhibitions, events and we collaborated in projects outside of Anselma. What capacity did you build? How did you change people’s lives? We managed to build a studio which is currently used as personal workspace by nine people, we have five regular outside collaboWe learned that you rators, lots of people come to Anselma on a daily basis, and we manage to teach something new to never stop learning and approximately two hundred people per year. that everything is possible Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? At the beginning the only clear intention we had was to do what we love, have fun doing and make a living out of it. We have been active for three years, so it seems it met its initial purpose.

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned ? We learned that you never stop learning and that everything is possible. We continue to build it every day. Conflicts are always there, especially when lots of people are involved, but so far none of them have been crucial. What can be given as advice for the readers? Follow your conscience and everything will be all right.


Groupshot of the team. © Leonhard Kugler.

Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie is an independent think-and-do-tank based in Leipzig, Germany. We develop, collect and spread concepts for an ecologically sustainable, socially just and democratic economy. We try to make thinking about the economy understandable and fun. And we try to put our ideas into practice in our everyday life. Christopher Laumanns is co-founder of the Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie in Leipzig. He likes bikes and coffee. He dislikes injustice and peppermint tea.

Case Study

Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie by Christopher Laumanns

Purpose/aim of the project: Our purpose is to develop and spread concepts for a social, ecological and democratic economy. How we do that exactly is a question that we often ask ourselves, as we regularly have internal strategic debates and start new projects. Names of people involved: Jona Kristin Blobel, Susanne Brehm, Sarah Deuling, Nadine Kaufmann, Kai Kuhnhenn, Steffen Lange, Christopher Laumanns, Eva Mahnke, Anne Pinnow, Johannes Schneeweiss, Nina Treu, and Felix Wittmann. Geographic location: Leipzig, Germany. The Konzeptwerk isn't bound to a certain environment, but we feel Leipzig is a great place to think about the economy, as there are a lot of inspiring projects around. The low rents in Leipzig also helped to be able to start the project. Supported by: The four pillars of our finances are: funding for specific projects by foundations; donations; remuneration for workshops and lectures; and, three people employed through the Federal Volunteer Service programme (Bundesfreiwilligendienst1) Start date/Finish date: We started in the autumn of 2011 and we don't feel like finishing yet! Website or other online resource:

1  The ‘Bundesfreiwilligendienst’ in an initiative for social volunteer work introduced in 2011 by the German government as a reaction to the end of conscription and to provide an alternative civilian service in Germany.


BEGINNING What triggered the project? Early 2011, a group of friends and activists who had studied together decided that they didn't want to lose their friendships and shared potential in the job market. They invited all their friends to talk about the future, about who had which plans and whether they could coincide. At that meeting, the idea to start a political project on degrowth which would provide employment for its members was born. Other people joined in the course of the year and in autumn the Konzeptwerk started its work. What was your motivation? There were various motivations, differing from person to person. First and foremost was the will to make a change towards a more social, ecological and democratic society. But also not wanting to have a normal job with a boss telling you what to do (at the Konzeptwerk we take decisions by consensus), or the idea that the jobs that we would otherwise look for are very much sought after and therefore can be done by other people just as well as by us. Are there similar projects, did these stimulate you and are you linked to them in any way? When we founded the Konzeptwerk, we looked intensively at the work the New Economics Foundation (NEF2) is doing in the United Kingdom. We felt that an actor who linked scientific research and emancipatory politics in an attractive, easy to understand way was needed. NEF was definitely an inspiration there. We now cooperate loosely with them via the Degrowth Conference 2014,3 which is one of our bigger projects at the moment. How did the idea evolve? The idea hasn't evolved that much, as we're still young and we've stuck to the initial concept up until now. Right now we're organising a lot (we're one of the main organisers of the Degrowth Conference 2014), whereas before we had a strong focus on generating content (with Zeitwohlstand,4 a book on ‘time-well-being’, and 'Wirtschaftswende',5 a proposal for a social, ecological and democratic solution to the Euro crisis). But then again, currently we're also studying the methods and needs of

2  New Economics Foundation (NEF) is the UK’s leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice. ‘Our purpose is to bring about a Great Transition – to transform the economy so that it works for people and the planet’. More info: 3  The Degrowth Conference 2014 was the Fourth International Conference on Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity taking place in the German city of Leipzig from September 2-6, 2014. The focus of the 2014 conference was on concrete steps towards a society beyond the imperative of growth. The conference encouraged scientific debates, exchange between activists and economic pioneers as well as artistic approaches to the subject. More info: 4  Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie e.V., eds., 2013. Zeitwohlstand - Wie wir anders arbeiten, nachhaltig wirtschaften und besser leben. München: Oekom Verlag. 5  In the Euro crisis, calls for more growth as a solution have been predominant. With ‘Wirtschaftswende’ the Konzeptwerk made a proposal for a different way out of the Euro crisis. They highlighted the need to regulate financial


local socio-ecological collective businesses here in Leipzig. And we'll contribute to the content of the Degrowth Conference as well, drawing from what we've learnt from Zeitwohlstand and 'Wirtschaftswende'. So there's a lot of continuity in how we work and what we work on. What are/were key organisational aspects and organisational structures?

Organisational structure, illustrated by Christopher Laumanns. Š Konzeptwerk Neue Ă–konomie.

markets, to democratise the European Union and to foster economic cooperation within the Euro-zone. The economic analysis focused on Germany’s responsibility for the crisis. Proposed domestic policies were a social and ecological tax reform in Germany and a more equal distribution of working time in order to raise the prices of German export goods and start a social and ecological transformation at the same time. More info:


Is the organisation informal or formal? The legal form of the Konzeptwerk is that of a charitable association (gemeinnĂźtziger eingetragener Verein).

ACTING & DOING What are or were the key activities? 1) Scientific research on concepts and strategies for a sustainable, democratic and social economy, 2) networking and facilitation for a strong movement towards such an economy, 3) policy recommendations for political decision-makers, 4) background information for journalists and 5) economic education for pupils, students and other interested people. What are or were the key approach & methods? That depends on who we're approaching. Obviously methods for pupils differ greatly from those for the press. One factor all our different areas of work share is the use of easy to understand language, attractive design and good examples. Our goal is to make studying and questioning the economy understandable and fun. How did you get people participating? Broad participation in the Konzeptwerk itself is not our main focus. On a professional level, even though we can't offer a lot of money, we find that people are quite interested in working with us, so that's never been a problem. The Degrowth Conference however, for example, has an organisational group that was open to everyone for a long time. A lot of people were interested in participating because of the subject and stayed in the group because we dedicate a lot of energy to having a good time and to reducing hierarchies: We inform each other about our work, play games, discuss politics and have special time slots at our assemblies in which we set aside for group dynamics. At the conference there'll be a host of possibilities to participate, such as: commenting papers via an online platform, interactive workshops, helping the organisational group or being part of the ‘open space’, a format that will take place every afternoon. What is/was essential for practical matters? The most essential thing for practical matters is to understand each other. Skilled facilitation and room for the needs of every individual are key for our work. After that you have a whole host of important skills and tools: knowledge of economics and politics, educational skills, graphic design, cooking (we have lunch together at the office and offer vegan food at our events), public relations and many more. Working here also requires a high level of autonomy and teamwork at the same time.


What are/were the key communication channels and methods? Internally we have different assemblies, some weekly, some bimonthly, depending on the subject. Apart from that we use emails a lot, we have phones and store our data in our own cloud. Externally our main communication channels are: websites, research studies and books; interviews; workshops; meetings and conferences and; Facebook. Media use and efficacy? Thanks to the organisation of the Degrowth Conference 2014, media attention has rocketed lately. What are/were the dates of special or key events?

Lifecycle of the project, illustrated by Christopher Laumanns. Š Konzeptwerk Neue Ă–konomie


REFLECTING & SUSTAINING What kinds of ‘capital’ did you use to sustain the project? That's a tricky one. By ‘capital’ we understand money that is invested to gain a surplus value. A surplus value is gained by letting/making somebody work and selling the product of that work for more money than the worker's workforce costs. Therefore capital only exists through the exploitation of someone's work force by someone with money to spare. That's not exactly how we want to organise an economy, so we don't find it a very useful term to describe other areas of life. We'd like people not to think of their social relationships from a market perspective, which simply by using the term ‘capital’ in combination with other adjectives might be a result... If you're asking what we need in order to sustain the project: mainly work, love and yes, money. Is it self-sustaining now or will it be in the future? Another tricky one! Is a project financed by donations, funding and a state-run volunteering programme self-sustaining? Would we be more self-sustaining if we were financed only through the remuneration for our workshops, thus only relying on private, but all the same external money? Any project participating in the economy is interdependent, so it can never be fully self-sustaining. We'd have to return to a solitary agrarian life in order to get close to that — but even then we'd depend on the services of nature to sustain ourselves. Are you happy with the project? Yep! Really happy.


Plenum © Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie.

Would you change anything? Yes, the economic system! Once we've reached an economy that provides a ‘good life’ for all humans and respects nature, we can dismantle the Konzeptwerk and get down to our passions: dancing, repairing bikes, cooking and more... Right now though, if we want to change anything about our Once we’ve reached an project, we sit down, talk about it, and if we reach economy that provides a a consensus on the topic, we make the change. We constantly change the project in that way. good life for all humans

and respects nature, we can

Was the project as you expected or did you endismantle the Konzeptwerk counter anything unexpected? There's always unexpected stuff, but we didn't encounter many big surprises or breaking points. Probably because we didn't have a very set idea when we started. Is the project scalable? The project can definitely be copied, but it's probably not that easy. You need good communication skills, have to prioritise working conditions and political change over money, we have all had the privilege of receiving a university education (which is not necessary, but does help with the work that we do). What are your future plans? To grow slowly and not infinitely. To continue and improve our current projects. And in 2015, we'll probably work on bringing together the degrowth and the climate justice movements.

OUTPUTS & OUTCOMES What were tangible outputs of the project? Books, publications and material which are free to download,6 such as: • Our book on time and well-being Zeitwohlstand.7 • Our study on the Euro crisis from a degrowth perspective.8 • Our educational materials.9 We've produced way more than this, our biggest project to date being the 2014 Degrowth Conference in Leipzig. If you want to know more about our work, just check out the website or contact us.10

6  All these materials are in German but can be easily translated using Google Translate or other online translators. 7 8 9 10  Contact info:


What are/were the outcomes with reference to the target audience? That depends on the project. Our book Zeitwohlstand (time-well-being) has sold well and got some good reviews, so that's easy to measure, but it doesn't tell you much about the transformative power of the book. The same goes for our educational work, it's hard to quantify the outcome, but it's very satisfying to see the bright faces of people who feel empowered after a workshop. At the moment we're preparing a second edition of Endlich Wachstum (Growth At Last), a book that offers a lot of methods for a critical economic education. The first edition has been sold out for a while (but it's free to read on the web)11 and it's great to hear from people who use the methods when they teach. The Degrowth Conference looks set to be a success: We've had to raise the number of expected participants all the time due to the great public and media interest. Did the project meet the initial purpose and intentions? We're still in the middle of that, working on making the initial purpose reality. We're going in the right direction. For example, our educational work for 2014 was booked out in May. We get educational requests from very diverse groups, from schools and universities to trade unions and self-organised youth groups.

LESSONS LEARNED What are the lessons learned? • Working on group dynamics, on how each and every one of us feels and how we communicate is key to creating a stable project. • Grassroots democracy works great. • Don't try to create a big alliance of civil society actors when hardly anybody knows you yet. • Working in a cold office in winter makes you ill. What can be given as advice for the readers? • Do create your own projects if you have a great group of people around you, and you think you can do it. • Focus on few projects and do them well. You can't do everything, even if you have a lot of good ideas. • Dare to question authority, not just the one in front of you, also the one inside you. • Don't take it all too seriously. • Not too lightly either, eh! • There's no need for commercial software, planes or the meat industry to make your project successful. So please try not to use them.



Anne Badan - Being at the junction of disciplines, where jobs, projects and blueprints haven’t been designed yet, is exciting as they are opening up to new unexpected opportunities and outcomes.


Presentation and workshop © Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie.


living Human activities of alive-ness, being-ness, existences, livelihoods and other ways of being that affect our individual and collective condition, our thriving and flourishing, and our natural, spatial, physical, mental, spiritual and other dimensions of being in the world.


Benjamin Becker studied Architecture in Karlsruhe, Vienna, Delft and Los Angeles. He worked as an architect in Germany and the Netherlands, for the German Development Service (DED/GIZ) in Mali, West Africa, and as research assistant and lecturer in the Urban Design Master Programme at HafenCity University in Hamburg. Since 2014 he has been dealing with his own architectural practice. Stefanie Gernert has worked as an architect since 1998, as research assistant at the Faculty of Architecture at Bergisch University of Wuppertal, and currently works at HafenCity University Hamburg in the field of Urban Design. Bernd Kniess studied Architecture and Urban Planning. He is Professor of Urban Design at HafenCity University in Hamburg and the Dean of the Master Programme in Urban Design. He is interested in a ‘diagrammatic’ of the contemporary city from an interdisciplinary perspective and concerned with the description of a relational understanding of planning and its conversion into a critical practice as method. With Michael Koch and Christopher Dell he initiated the teaching and research project University of the Neighbourhoods (UdN) in 2008. He is a member of the research initiative Low-Budget-Urbanity and since 2009 of the North Rhine Westphalian Academy of the Arts and Sciences. Ben Pohl studied design, photography and film in Berlin and has been working as a cameraman and photographer since 2003. He finished his Master in Urban Design (MSc) at HafenCity University Hamburg in 2012. He is now a research associate and lecturer in the Urban Design Master programme at HafenCity University. His work is concerned with performative videographic research methods and the qualitative inquiry of local embedded economic actor networks focussed on spatial and economical practices of gastronomic actors and their places as urban centralities of intercultural practice. Anna Richter studied Sociology and English Literature in Bremen and New York, and wrote a PhD on the ‘politics of participation’ in Leeds, England. She is now a researcher and lecturer in the Urban Design Master programme at HafenCity University in Hamburg, Germany. Her work is concerned with the de- and re-politicisation of participation discourse in urban development and qualitative social research methods.



University of the Neighbourhoods – Hotel as Method? by Benjamin Becker, Stefanie Gernert, Bernd Kniess, Ben Pohl, and Anna Richter1

Wilhelmsburg is located on an island on the river Elbe, south of Hamburg's harbour. A bricolage of industry, farmland, Wilhelminian heritage and German post-war architecture – home and workplace for inhabitants from 158 different nations. A laboratory, one could think, in which these experts of the everyday test out ways of communal living and survival in the European city of the 21st century. In the midst of the Reiherstieg quarter, hidden in dense wild greenery, we find an ordinary low-rise building from the 1950s. Built as a home for unmarried women, transformed into a public health department, it was withdrawn from any use fifteen years ago. This 1950s L-shaped one-storey building was to be demolished to make way for a new housing project, that couldn’t be realized within the context of the International Building Exhibition (IBA 2013). The IBA 2013 accelerated urban development and transformation processes but also opened up a temporary opportunity between the decay of the building and its eventual demolition. The project University of the Neighbourhoods was developed and established between 2009 and 2013, so the building offered a site for experimentation. The principal setup of the project provided an ‘institutional shelter’, a socio-spatial construct unfolding between the City of Hamburg as the owner of the property, the International Building Exhibition IBA 2013 Hamburg,2 HafenCity University3 and its Urban Design Master Programme,4 Kampnagel Cultural Factory5 and the construction company Max Hoffmann GmbH & Co. KG.6 These partners provided the conditions to pro-

1  Innumerable everyday life experts, academics, neighbours, students, guests and visitors were involved as participants, critics, contributors, users. The Universität der Nachbarschaften (UdN) was initiated by professors Christopher Dell, Bernd Kniess and Michael Koch, directed by Bernd Kniess and managed by Ben Becker (project development, construction, coordination and teaching) and Stefanie Gernert (project coordination and translation between various stakeholders, institutions and participants). 2 3 4 5 6


duce an educational space framed as and named University of the Neighbourhoods7 (UdN). As an experimental setup the project focused on the reciprocity of usage, programming, learning, design and building processes, whether concerned with the minimal use of material resources, the experimental testing of re-cycling and upcycling strategies, or the testing of unusual constructions and reassembling material according to a radical low budget and do-it-yourself (DIY) strategy. A working methodology was created that sought to combine teaching, research, design and practice in one place. The programmatically conducted demolition process was accompanied by continuous upgrading which was articulated through the proliferation of different usages of the building and the UdN’s programme. This way, the UdN became a a workplace, a living space, a place to dwell and exchange with the neighbourhood as well as a location for local and international workshops and seminars. We employ the conceptual term ‘Ermöglichungsarchitektur’ (‘enabling architecture’), referring to our attempt to reflect on these processes and potentials. This enabled us to create settings for spatial and programmatic changes that emerge in specific situations and contexts rather than being planned in advance. With the final project of the UdN, the Hotel?Wilhelmsburg8 we endeavoured to identify sustainable future options for the site after demolition and to test exemplary lab conditions. Here, questions about How can the still hegemonic, future dwelling practices were fathomed but long out-dated, separation in a 1:1 model: what does ‘dwelling-asof functions (work, leisure, practice’ mean under conditions of deand dwelling) be reconciled? mographic change, increasing migration and changing economic circumstances? Which forms of activity can be invented, associated and practiced if classical concepts of work and labour do not fit? What are the basic conditions of dwelling for individual and common needs? In what ways is the relationship between the private sphere and different forms of community changing? How can the still hegemonic but long out-dated separation of functions (work, leisure, and dwelling) be reconciled? What kinds of spatial demands and arrangements arise from the changing practices of mobility of an increasingly urbanised society? By creating everyday situations, the project opened up the scope for discussions in the neighbourhood in which current global and site-specific questions of urban development and transformation processes were seized and negotiated. The common activities of cooking and dining were especially important for enabling practical opportunities for different forms of exchange. We experimented with varied forms of housekeeping in order to apply, derive and invent strategies and

7 8  The final project of the UdN, the Hotel?Wilhelmsburg, was funded by The Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme SEEDS (Stimulating Enterprising Environments for Development and Sustainability).


modes of practice that enabled situated and contextual agreements to emerge. This meant that questions of participation and co-designing urban processes were up for discussion. Neighbours and students alike fulfilled various roles of agency, as guests and hosts, musicians, cooks and alike. Within the scope of the ‘Hotel?Wilhelmsburg’ students, young researchers, neighbours and institutional actors worked in a transdisciplinary and intercultural constellation on the main topics of a socio-economic cooking and dining were (operation) system, a communication model, and, fiespecially important nally, on the architectural-physical implementation of the experimental set-up. In a series of construction for enabling practical workshops the strategies were further developed and opportunities for different implemented with the support of experienced selfforms of exchange builders and colleagues.9 Trusted tools and architectural imaginaries were tested through radical pragmatism: Go out and start! Build it! Run it! Give it away!

‘University of the Neighbourhoods as enabling architecture’ by Bernd Kniess, Ben Pohl and Anna Richter Taking over a project called Experiment on the Island in 2008, we came to realise that besides the political will to establish a cooperation between the IBA 2013 and the HafenCity University Hamburg (HCU), there was not an articulated substantial aim, nor was there a concrete idea for a programme as to how a university could engage in the urban development processes of the island Wilhelmsburg within the IBA 2013. But there was this 1950s L-shaped one-storey building and the only condition was to return the empty lot to the city of Hamburg by the end of 2013. To create ideas, a student competition was launched in 2007, the result of which was a number of images of tabula-rasa-designs. Surprisingly only one team had proposed to redesign and re-use the existing building for the given time frame of five years, and they won the competition. But even this entry caused new problems with its strategy to retain real architects with the refurbishment of the building. Such a procedure would have spent the whole budget on building works only and in consequence — no budget left — prevent any developments of activities in the intended time span. Similarly to their colleagues, the team had no idea what kind of usages should be the basis for the reorganisation of the physical structure. The competition did not bring any new insights but raised new questions. Its outcome is an example of the classic misunderstanding of Architecture with a capital ‘A’, which is more concerned with form and neglects its relation with function, uses and opportunities, hence people.

9  Amongst others, these were Andrea Hofmann, Benjamin Förster-Baldenius (Raumlabor), Ton Matton (Mattonoffice), Martin Kaltwasser (Kaltwasser/Köbberling), Alexander Römer (exyzt), Florian Tampe (DETOX) and Peter Fattinger (Design-Build).


Quite simply, taking over the project to work on a programme, there was the need to make the building usable and useful for only five years until the end of the IBA2013. A terminal use, rather than a temporary use had to be envisaged and enabled. The task was quite simple: an idea of possible uses for exactly that given time frame had to be developed, a programme to unfold the range of possibilities for continuous transformations and the permanent redesign How can architecture of the building. An important question was thus: How can enable its users to architecture enable activities to develop? How can archinegotiate, adopt and tecture enable its users to negotiate, adopt and make use make use of a building? of a building according to the situational and contextual needs and what does sustainability mean in that context? We decided to take this open process seriously to understand our activities not as extraordinary or outstanding ‘experiments’ of a university based in HafenCity10 but as part of the given urban context of the island and the neighbourhood. The term Ermöglichungsarchitektur (‘enabling architecture’) literally enabled us to reflect on and foster the project’s complex, dynamic and manifold processes both theoretically and practically so as to ‘produce spatial structures that enable the production of space’11 as Christopher Dell conceptualises it. We started the ‘University of the Neighbourhoods’ with asking some simple questions: What could university mean if it is situated in the neighbourhood? What is the neighbourhood about? What kinds of practices make a neighbour a neighbour? The building was nothing more than a shell. The windows were smashed, sinks and toilets torn out, graffiti on every wall — the remnants of the building’s interim users. Because of its very state we were in a position to re-think every room’s function, size and possible uses in relation to the building as a whole. Besides putting back into operation basic infrastructure such as electricity and water and repairing the toilets and bathrooms, we merged four smaller rooms into a large space to use it for assemblies. The contractually agreed demolition and first experiences with clean-up operations and building works evolved as a design strategy for further building activities and structural interventions. By reducing the structure where necessary, we added to its usability and open-character. This radical approach and the ephemeral state of the building enabled us to take up and further develop some questions that have been asked earlier by artist and architect Gordon Matta-Clark regarding his ‘splittings’, questioning the immutability of architecture, enabling new readings and uses of its elements and structures and ‘opening up new spaces’12 With the first seminar we started to appropriate the house according to basic collective needs. DIY, hands on, and do-it-together (DIT) approaches. Every struc-

10  Cf. (Hamburg sees its ‘HafenCity – [as] currently Europe’s largest inner-city development project – [and] a blueprint for the development of a European city on the waterfront’) 11  Dell, Christopher. 2011. Replaycity: Improvisation als urbane Praxis. Berlin: Jovis Berlin. p.52 12  Jane Crawford cited in reprint of: Ted Castle, STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, GORDON MATTA-CLARK, Flash Art International No. 90-91 (June-July, 1979). Source:


tural intervention into the building was undertaken in order to enhance or enable activities, arrangements and situations that had emerged during the early appropriation and in reflexive discussions. This process was backed by researching the possible solutions during seminars, construction site What could university internships and summer schools. The challenge was to organise all kinds of activities at this remote locamean if it is situated in tion, stretching the framework of a Bologna-shaped the neighbourhood? curriculum.13 But how were we to run a construction site under such conditions? We developed an extremely complex matrix to organize ourselves, not only listing tasks according to the succession of work sections and construction phases, but we also tried to coordinate these with the individual schedules of various students, pupils, young adults and — whenever unavoidable — professional construction companies.

A first performative intervention Apart from these physical re-building jobs, we took the projected grand opening of the UdN as a first task to reflect on ways of possible future usages. Via this official inauguration we re-activated the whole building with a number of activists and their performances14 and provided opportunities to invite the neighbours and the public. Performing the traditional social ritual of hosting a reception, visitors co-created the festival, spectating turned into acting and the distinctions between host and guest or stage and audience blurred.15 Retrospectively, these first interventions were relevant in that they demonstrated the potential of the building, a raw structure that had lost its original function. The teaching, research and design project UdN was created by, and in turn created the members and makers, visitors and hosts/guests, user-producers and research practitioners.

Inventing the kitchen-foyer Besides building the assembly room through the demolition of walls, we had temporarily turned another small room into a kitchen. The room was looking out to the garden. Its window quickly turned out to be more than an opening in the wall sup-

13  The Bologna Process is a series of ministerial meetings and agreements between European countries designed to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications. 14  The UdN hosted the performance ‘Shivers’ in collaboration with the theatre group ‘God‘s Entertainment’ and the Hamburg-based culture factory Kampnagel producing countless highlights such as the attractions of the ‘Afro shop’, ‘Wilhelmsburg TV’, the individual dance bands and boys‘ choirs, the ‘tunnel of horrors’ and a beach bar. There was the music show project Music Cooperation offering the youth of the neighbourhood a stage for all kinds of rap battles and there was the (inter-)cultural kitchen, inviting neighbours to cook for neighbours. 15  Compare with Boal, A., 1985. Theatre of the Oppressed. New York: Theatre Publications Group.


plying light, views and air. During the feast the window connected the inside and the outside activities in the kitchen and on the terrace. Students had quickly constructed the terrace from old wooden boards they had found. The window was even (ab)used as a bar in a seemingly spontaneous way. Even if the kitchen was intended to be in this place for the inauguration only, its use as a bar developed non-intentionally and it situationally revealed the possible relations of the building to the park. As all the windows had to be re-glazed anyway, we decided to widen the kitchen windows and those in the assembly room, so as to maximise the already emerging communication between the building’s interior and its exterior, the garden with its terrace and the park. The students proposed to build sliding doors and while they checked technical details and prices, the openings were temporarily covered with plastic foil in wooden frames. Living with this provisional solution revealed certain spatial qualities and very convincing potentials. The interplay of light and the shadows of the trees on the opaque plastic foil provided an additional quality to the room, so did the lightweight frames, which could be easily removed and put to the side just by loosening a few screws. With this we were able to open up large parts of the facade towards the park, and we learned to love this simple luxury during our first summer in the UdN. Finally, the qualities of the provisional windows rather than the price of expensive sliding doors — which would only have allowed to open up one of three windows — convinced us to redesign the temporary solution into a more solid one. We changed the wooden frames into lightweight aluminium ones, now filled with polycarbonate panels screwed onto a second aluminium frame and firmly installed in the wall. Then we were able to ‘easily’ open all three windows whenever the situation asked for it. This example of the kitchen-bar-window-frame-process can be seen paradigmatically for the entire life-size model of the UdN. This way of learning from and supporting the emerging ‘activities’ during the process did not mean to have ‘no plan’, but it meant to adapt, rethink and modify the plan as an on-going open procedure. Reflecting and documenting these processes became one of the central research tasks within the entire process. The next step and biggest intervention into the existing structure was to open up the kitchen to the foyer and upwards to the roof with more polycarbonate and to turn it into the centre of the building. This further reducing intervention was considered necessary to give it a friendly and open character and to emancipate it from the oppressive form of a health authority building with low ceilings and small rooms. Both these interventions (widening and transforming the windows and the opening up of the kitchen so as to serve as foyer) contributed to the blurring of the architecture with its surroundings. The kitchen, no longer a private part of the building, opened towards the park and at the same time greeted anyone entering the UdN. In a similar way, the former examination cubicles were transformed into a studio with a minimum of privacy for visiting scholars and artists in residence. Small interventions or reductions and transformations enabled working, thinking about and engaging with an existing building and the social meaning of architecture.


Practicing research – researching practice While the building remained a continuous building site, it equally provided a basis and object of countless research projects concerned with themes such as low budget architecture, locally embedded economies, re-cycling and up-cycling of material, education, learning in situ and engagement in and of the neighbourhood. We started to merge the activation of the UdN with the HCU’s educational programme. We held seminars and projects, international workshops and summer schools, with which we, yet again, explored and tried to maximise the building’s options and people’s demands regarding its rich diversity of different needs for working, learning and teaching, discussions, presentations and the attendant demands of dwelling, personal care, cooking and eating, joining with others, the neighbourhood and its festivities. We attempted to programmatically bring together the physical and structural conditions with socio-spatial practices in order to study the practice of dwelling and being active. This experiment in dwelling sought to produce a physical and programmatic environment to enable the synthesis and spatial practice of existing and new modes of dwelling, building, learning, working, economic interchange, new intercultural contracts and cultural hybridisations. In the context of our research and design projects and seminars, we were interested in the changing modes, models and practices of mobility (e.g. migration), demographic tendencies (e.g. aging population), modes of dwelling (e.g. shared spaces or single households), post-industrial labour conditions and a globalised economy that are confronting us with new questions regarding the urban. Indeed, this seems a very diverse research agenda, but instead of reducing the scope of interests, we tried to enable and encourage our students and young researchers to follow their specific research interests within the ‘framework’ of the UdN. The UdN became a place of departure to conduct qualitative studies of emerging topics and phenomena in the neighbourhood of Wilhelmsburg. Each take and perspective contributed to an iterative and reflective researchpractice;16 we created situations so as to produce and practice relational spatialities. ‘Learning from’17 — literally and as a reference — was an invitation to programmatically engage with the UdN. The UdN here refers to a place, one project and many projects, people, times, personal experiences, shelter, fountain, fireplace, university, architecturing, a place of negotiation, reflection and research, conflict and progress, official receptions and intellectual discussion, cooked food and no toilet paper, jobs and internships, openings and closings, and minimum and maximum scenarios.

16  With ‘research’ we refer to a variety of different practices that have been performed within the UdN project. In order to concentrate on the overarching frame of an ‘enabling architecture’ of the UdN in this text, we omit a detailed explanation of the employed research methods. For an overview, these included qualitative ethnographic research, literature reviews and meta-theoretical reflections, artistic research approaches and practical research approaches on materiality and physical spacings. 17  Venturi, R., Scott Brown, D., and Izenour, S., 1977. Learning from Las Vegas: the forgotten symbolism of architectural form. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.


In this sense, the UdN project entailed an ambivalence in that it was a ‘Versuchsanordnung’ or [an] ‘experimental set up’ for an ‘enabling architecture’ and an object of research itself. This ambivalence led to two emerging strands of practicing research and researching practice. One strand was concerned with the reflection of the physical transformation of the already built environment as everyday experts, neighbours, visitors, and students who used it. The ensemble of the old health centre in its actual surroundings can be seen as an example of a general phenomenon where existing buildings are abandoned from their formal and former uses. Through the programmatic dismantling we maximised the building’s potential. Our spacings,18 or spatial practices, and the capacity of synthesis emerged as they became relevant and vice versa. This meant that various forms of agency were continuously practiced, tested, modified, amended and elaborated. The UdN and its programmatic, institutional and physical framing provided socio-spatial structures and a the UdN project [...] was ‘safe space’19 that enabled us to take risks and allowed dif[...] an ‘experimental ferent kinds of dwelling, learning, working, leisure and set up’ for an ‘enabling encounter to emerge on various hybrid levels of privacy, architecture’ commonly shared and public spaces of interaction with one another and the neighbourhood. The second strand was concerned with the transformation of the organizational space and the ‘house of institutions’20 that had to be redesigned in order to host the changing intercultural ‘reality of the multitude’.21 While the principal setup of the project provided an ‘institutional shelter’, constituted by the involved partners, who provided the basic conditions to create an educational space, this institutional space had to be continuously transformed and reinterpreted to frame the emerging programme of the UdN. The situation of a gap and an opportunity within this institutional framework made an iterative procedure possible. Without going into detail here, in summary we can say that the specific situation of a university in the making like the HCU — spread over the entire city of Hamburg — was an essential condition. In contrast to the photorealistic ‘rendering’ of the planned building of the HCU, there was never a full or final plan, programme or image of the UdN, rather a continuous process. Thus the institutional space was transformed though the specific improvisational demands of the project, which consequently forced us to act on the border

18  Löw, M., 2001. Raumsoziologie. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. pp.158. 19  Denzin, N. K., 2010. The Qualitative Manifesto: A Call to Arms. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. p.69. 20  Terkessidis extends the notion of ‘accessibility’ towards the field of ‘institutions’ and illustrates this with the metaphor of a ‘house’. Terkessidis, M., 2010. Interkultur. Berlin: Suhrkamp. pp.88, 140. 21  bid. pp.12, 33, 36. We translated Terkessidis ‘Vielheit’ intentionally with ‘multitude’ instead of ‘multiplicity’, since he also refers to the greek ‘πάρα πολλοί ’ for ‘a great many’ to fuse a notion of many and diversity, a term also used by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Source:


of the existing logics and stabilized patterns of contemporary public administration. A key task was to translate between accounting management, administration and the actual project. This meant stretching the institutional logics of the IBA2013, the City of Hamburg, the HCU and the EU funders22 towards (more) dynamic relations. Traditional planning and building project management procedures were not applicable, neither were the administrative practices and ‘traditions’. The project UdN thus evolved and materialised as a permanent process of there was never a translation, negotiation and invention. full or final plan, This iterative procedure or ‘tactical strategy’23 not only contributed to the programmatic setup of the project, but programme or image also allowed for new forms of pedagogy, and practical and of the UdN, rather a critical life experiences, through which students were in a continuous process position to mutually develop their projects and even their own curriculum, to rehearse and interrelate theoretical and practical knowledge.

The UdN’s emerging approach to dwelling-as-practice One of the main themes over the five years was our interest in dwelling. A continuously recurring question was concerned with ways of dealing with the present, the existing and ways of maximising its opportunities. What transformations and adaptation strategies were needed to be developed in order to adjust the existing built structures to changing dwelling conditions and/or lifestyles? What will be the twenty-first century’s idea of dwelling and how can we design its possible future regarding demographic and economic changes and new modes of production and their practices in relation to migration and mobility? The idea was to question the practice of dwelling, dwelling-as-practice, and the UdN provided a framework within which we were able to explore its dimensions. This is not to say that we have come up with a definitive answer as to what dwellingas-practice is: rather than generalising our understanding, the question enabled the reflective and iterative interrogation of those practices that emerged as central to dwelling. Arguably, some of these practices and functions are highly relevant for the future given the present and emerging conditions of the urban: increasing mobility, such as commuting, migration, working tourism and economic, demographic, technological and ecological transformations etc. These processes are leading to more ephemeral and temporary practices of dwelling and new intersecting models of working and dwelling, including changing concepts of cohabitation and family that tend to undercut the modernist separation of functions. These are accompa-

22  The project Hotel?Wilhelmsburg emerged within the wider UdN project and received Interreg 4b Seeds funding. 23  Christopher Dell as one of the conceptual initiators of the UdN writes about such concepts of tactical strategy in Dell, C., 2011. Replaycity: Improvisation als urbane Praxis. Berlin: Jovis.




[1] UdN Hotel © Ben Pohl, 2013. [2] UdN construction team © UdN, 2010. [3] UdN Construction phase © Benjamin Becker, 2009. [4] UdN working kitchen © UdN, 2012. [5] UdN eating together © UdN, 2010. [6] UdN Garden © Ben Pohl, 2009.






nied and reinforced by the lack of affordable housing, cash strapped communities and a neoliberal market economy characterised by austerity.24 As dwelling is increasingly becoming a highly complex issue of interrelated economic, ecologic, political, physical and societal processes, this understanding of dwelling-as-practice goes beyond classical definitions of sleeping and storing (and representing) one’s belongings. Most importantly, we were interested in the fundamental and necessary practices as opposed to those sought by a cosmopolitan minority’s demand for luxury apartments in the city centres. Some of these practices are very intimate and belong to the realm of the private, while others are collectively shared and belong to the realm of the common or the public. But the lines between these spheres are increasingly blurred and have to be renegotiated in everyday life in various ways. Hence our interest was not to reduce the concept of dwelling-as-practice to its material and symbolic representation, most apparent in the detached family home or individually owned flat. Dwelling in more general terms transcends these borders and includes the neighbourhoods, the city and all the places that are produced for and by dwelling practices: the places of play, pleasure and leisure, the hangouts, the gastronomic localities, the street corner shops and breakfast bakeries, and with that the places of work, of education, the hospitals, the hotels, the streets of play and the yards of silence. In this sense, dwelling or living is part of the practice of place-making, the production and reproduction of relations within the neighbourhood and the accumulation of what David Harvey calls ‘collective symbolic capital’25 or what we call ‘urban capital’. Bourdieu incorporated these spatial and spatialised aspects in his notion of the ‘field’,26 in which the practices of the everyday, the microeconomic interchange, the symbolic imaginations, languages and identities and the production of recognition, trust and mutual respect merge. This productive perspective on dwelling or dwelling-as-practice links with the question of who benefits from the surplus of collectively accumulated urban capital, who is exploiting it under recent conditions, and how it can be collectively re-appropriated? Physically within and methodologically through the UdN project, we concentrated on the two spectrums of the private vs. the commonly shared on the one hand, and that of frugality (or saving) vs. luxury on the other. What is the minimal private sphere and personal space one needs? Which aspects, spaces and times (such as cooking and kitchen equipment, bath and toilet, working times and spaces, tools etc.) can be commonly shared? What spatial arrangements, new contracts, rules and programs have to be developed and negotiated? How can these negotiations be studied and

24  Compare with Peck, J., 2012. Austerity Urbanism. City 16 (6): pp.626–55; and Tonkiss, F., 2013. Austerity Urbanism and the Makeshift City. City 17 (3): pp.312–24. 25  Harvey, D., 2013. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. London: Verso. p.170 26  Compare with Bourdieu, P., 2009. Entwurf einer Theorie der Praxis. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. pp.139; and Hillebrandt, F., 1999. Die Habitus-Feld-Theorie als Beitrag zur Mikro-Makro-Problematik in der Soziologie - aus der Sicht des Feldbegriffs. Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg. (Working Papers zur Modellierung sozialer Organisationsformen in der Sozionik, WP2).


reflected upon? And what luxuries can be obtained spending only a minimal amount of resources? These questions and our approach of interrogating dwelling-as-practice led to developing the Hotel? as a method from and within the UdN project.

Hotel as a Method? The project Hotel?Wilhelmsburg presented our attempt to re-integrate the still spatially divided functions of leisure, work and dwelling on the one hand and to hybridise the different social and cultural realms of the neighbours, academics, municipal officials, guests of the IBA spectacle and students on the other. The UdN – as a building, a place-in-the-making, a project and a number of emerging projects – provided the means for an overlapping and playful (re-)search for new intercultural compromises and contracts on what Mouffe calls common symbolic terrain.27 Developing this ‘common symbolic terrain’ requires a processual understanding of common practice for the production of shared meanings, respect and mutual trust. The Hotel?Wilhelmsburg (Hotel?) as a method enabled us to frame the research-practice within a shared language and practice: ‘hotel’ is a code open to the most basic and most luxurious aspects of dwelling. Hotel? provided a framework to practice and research host-guest relationships based on the negotiation of interests and needs of openness and shelter. Guests who stayed in the Hotel? did not pay and instead gave something back in return. In Bourdieu’s words, we tried to work with ‘symbolic, cultural and social capital’28 and to consciously co-design a complex field of a ‘quasi chaotic’ assemblage of new functional hybrids, experimental ways of barter and economic interchange. Such an exploration of the complexity of individual and common, local and global issues implied in dwelling-as-practice is only possible when we allow ourselves to superimpose and hybridize all necessary functions to the maximum extent. This take on the ‘loss of control’ and ‘quasi chaos’ provoked a mode of self-organization that held on to all but a minimum of separation and privacy. Practices, rather than functions, perhaps, attracted our attention and allowed work, life, culture, and circulation to transgress their functional separation. The individual functions, of course, are still important, especially so in an increasingly de-bordering and rebordering world in which it is unclear whether we still work or have already started to relax. Dwelling-as-practice, however, includes the different ‘functions’ and reconnects them by recognising their interdependences and potentials. The UdN and the Hotel? in their versatility allowed us to auto-ethnographically practice-research dwelling. It made room for all kinds of exchanges and situations and provided an

27  Mouffe, C., 2005. On the Political. Auflage: New Ed ed. Oxford: Routledge Chapman & Hall. pp. 30. ‘Common symbolic terrain’ is our translation of ‘gemeinsamer symbolischer Raum’ regarding a personal discussion with the author at HCU, where she preferred to use ‘terrain’ instead of ‘space’ or ‘ground’. 28  Bourdieu, P., 1983. Ökonomisches Kapital, kulturelles Kapital, soziales Kapital. In: R. Kreckel, ed., 1983. «Soziale Ungleichheiten», Soziale Welt. Göttingen, p.S. pp183–198. (our translation)


opportunity to simultaneously study how they are socially produced, interpreted, negotiated, contested, celebrated and made meaningful. Instead of separating functions in predefined spatial set-ups and categories, they dynamically developed their own specific spatial set-up resulting from the respective activities, interests and opportunities. This, in result, also provoked several conflicts over the ‘right’ to use or to define a place – challenges that were unavoidable and necessary at the same time: functions conflicted with practices as private, common and public uses overlapped and collided. The iterative negotiation of the various demands framed both theoretical reflections and everyday explorative practice. The kitchen, as an assemblage of functions, (was) turned conceptually and practically into a gathering place, a study – be it for concentrated writing, lectures or seminars, a restaurant, a foyer, a stage and a bar. Continuously negotiating the activities made room for both planned events and spontaneous gatherings.

Zooming in… The significance of communal cooking and dining for dwelling-aspractice The kitchen is one of the central places of every day practice and at the same time a complex cultural ‘set of rules’. Sociologist Eva Barlösius addresses these two distinct aspects as being the physical place of the ‘energy source’ – the fire – and being a ‘complex set of [cultural] rules’, of how, when and by whom a meal is cooked, served and eaten, and what is culturally declared to be edible.29 But in contrast to this analytical separation, the kitchen is the very centrality that brings together people, raw food, means of production like energy, infrastructure and tools, and a ‘complex set of [cultural] rules’, information and knowledge.30 It is also a place where various forms of capital – according with Bourdieu and Harvey – can be accumulated and translated. The kitchen is a place of production and reproduction. Whether at home or in gastronomic localities, while preparing food and eating, we reproduce our material basis, the body, but we also reproduce habitualised culthe kitchen is the very tural patterns of collectivisation, distinction and taste.31 centrality that brings And in the words of Christopher Alexander: ‘Without 32 together people communal eating, no human group can hold together’. But beyond this, what we eat, how we prepare it and how and when we eat, unites and/or separates us (in or from groups alike) on a basis of everyday reproduction. Furthermore, our food cultures re-produce global and local spatial arrangements and socio-economic relations.33 The high frequency of its uses and its very heterogeneous assemblage of socio-material components made

29  Barlösius, E., 1999. Soziologie des Essens: Eine sozial- und kulturwissenschaftliche Einführung in die Ernährungsforschung. 1st ed. Auflage: Beltz Juventa. p.123 30  Pohl, B. and Vollmer, H., 2012. Das kommende Mahl: von der Feuerstelle zur Tischnachbarschaft. HCU.


the kitchen an ideal place of departure for the study, experiment and rehearsal of cultural hybridisations, knowledge accumulation, symbolic affirmations and modes of economic interchange even on a planetary scale. The kitchen worked as the nodal point on several dimensions. Not only was it the inviting entrance to the UdN, or ‘foyer’, but the kitchen also linked the layers of the ‘institution’ as a research project with the ‘private’ realms of the inhabitants, the ‘common’ of the shared daily usage and the ‘public’ of the neighbourhood. Superimposing or layering the functions of dwelling, working, and festivities as dwelling-aspractice and linking different functional parts of the building physically perhaps best describes our approach to ‘enabling architecture’. Despite its dynamic and unpredictability, the kitchen process was not determined by chance. Communal cooking and dining required and enabled new ways of producing the spaces for communication, interaction and what we termed ‘extended dwelling’. This included the transformation of the building’s architecture and a programmatic openness and hospitality for processes of cultural hybridisation, of learning from each other, of generating symbolic capital, recognition, shared meanings and trust to emerge and stabilise. The open kitchen and the permanent process of food preparation – and literally in 2013, the kitchen was in use almost 24/7 – questioned the existing hierarchical structures beyond all groups and stakeholders such as guests, teaching staff, neighbours and students. Communal cooking and eating led to new situations and a practice of ‘commoning’34 on an eyelevel perspective. Drawing on Michel Serres, we can relate the changing of roles to the oscillating figure of ‘l'hôte’: a figure that is literally both, guest and host, at the same time in a mode of permanent flux. ‘L’hôte’, host and guest in one word, gives and receives, offers and agrees, invites and is invited, is host and stranger.’35 Playing the role of ‘l’hôte’ meant to always renegotiate the rules of what is allowed and where compromises and alliances can be made. These contracts, practices and processes of negotiation with our roommates, guests and the neighbours became fundamental parts of the UdN’s architecture.

Intercultural practice Yet apart from these promising new possibilities, we also had to deal with some serious issues. The habitualised patterns of perception, value and action – those we

31  Compare with Barlösius, Eva, 1999. Soziologie des Essens: Eine sozial- und kulturwissenschaftliche Einführung in die Ernährungsforschung. 1st ed. Auflage: Weinheim: Beltz Juventa.; and Bourdieu, P., 2007. Die feinen Unterschiede: Kritik der gesellschaftlichen Urteilskraft. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. 32  Alexander, C., 1977. A pattern language: towns, buildings, construction. New York: Oxford University Press. p.147. 33  Compare with. Ajl, M., 2013. The Hypertrophic City Versus the Planet of Fields. In: Brenner, .l, ed. 2013. Implosions /Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization.Berlin: Jovis. 34  Compare with. Baier, A., Müller C., and Werner,K., 2013. Stadt Der Commonisten. Neue Urbane Räume Des Do It Yourself. Transcript. 35  Serres, M., 1987. Der Parasit. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. p.15 (our translation).


grew up with – are relatively stable and tend to dominate the processing and our understanding of reality. The logics of who is ‘established’ and who is an ‘outsider’36 quickly appeared to be restraining. What evolved were processes of appropriation, symbolic privatisation and a logic to derive a ‘superior right’ to use the place from having lived there longer than someone else. In order to keep the experiment running, everybody had to recognise and destabilise one’s own position within the group’s dynamics: this is a challenging task. This reveals a general dilemma between the desire to stabilise relations in order to accumulate different forms of ‘capital’ and the need to destabilise in order to innovate regarding changing demands and conditions. But a very important part of the project was exactly this permanent mode of negotiation, of mutual intervention, of re- and de-stabilisation of ‘associations’.37 This programmatic mode did not apply to the physical and institutional structures of the UdN alone, but rather to its intercultural aspects as ‘culture in-between’.38 If we understand culture in such a manner ‘as a verb’,39 like Street puts it, it is no longer the substance but part of the process and practice. It becomes something we do not ‘have’ or ‘own’, but practice, perform and reproduce in an on-going process of negotiating sometimes conflicting practices forces and interests. A process that is not only happening between human actors, but also between human and non-human actors,40 such as physical objects (e.g. the building) and institutional actors like the HCU and IBA2013. If we don’t have culture but practice it, culture essentially is a process of co-creation. The question this raises for us is how to co-design this process of ‘culturing’ in a conscious way?

Towards the re-integration of separated functions: the triangle of teaching, research and practice – the Urban Design (UD) approach Teaching, research and (design) practice have far too long been separated, both in theory, empirics and praxis, thereby echoing the functional separation of the Fordist city. Because their separation can be seen as highly artificial, the UdN was programmatically committed to dwelling, learning, teaching, research and neigh-

36  Compare with Elias, N., Schröder, M. and Scotson, J. L., 2002. Etablierte und Außenseiter. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. 37  Compare with Callon, M. and Latour, B., 1981. Unscrewing the big Leviathan: how actors macro-structure reality and how sociologists help them to do so. In: Knorr-Cetina, K. and Victor Cicourel, A., 1981. Advances in social theory and methodology: Toward an integration of micro-and macro-sociologies. New York: Routledge & Kogan Page. pp.277–303; and Latour, B., 2005. Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. 38  Compare withTerkessidis, M., 2010. Interkultur. Berlin: Suhrkamp. p.131; and Oosterling, H., 2000. A Culture of the ‘Inter’ Japanese Notions ma and basho. In: Kimmerle, H., and Oosterling, H., eds., Sensus communis in Multi- and Intercultural perspective. On the Possibility of Common Judgements in Arts and Politics. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, pp.61-84. 39  Street, B., 1993. Culture is a verb: Anthropological aspects of language and cultural process. Language and culture, pp.23–43. 40  Compare with Latour, B., 2005. Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.


bourhood – as practice(s) – while communicating the motifs – in practice(s). The Urban Design Master Programme’s41 (UD) approach, within which the UdN project was embedded, addresses the gap between urban studies, urban planning and urban design. Whereas urban studies are largely concerned with explaining contemporary urban phenomena by way of developments in its urban pasts, urban planning approaches focus almost entirely on an anticipated future. While both these approaches are based on scientific methodology approaches, design is often still based on implicit inventions. The interdisciplinary approach of the Urban Design Master Programme at HCU addresses this gap by acknowledging the complexity and inconsistency of the contemporary city, appropriating the insights, competences and skills of the disciplines concerned with the urban. Urban Design re-assembles teaching, research and design practice so as to study subjects and objects on their own terms and contingencies. As contemporary urbanism becomes simultaneously more complex and unfathomable, the Urban Design approach engages on all kinds of scales with these complexities, subjective perspectives and individual interests. The open and process like structure of the project and embedded research interests were not simplistically translated into predefined educational exercises. ‘Takes’, rather than tasks, are paramount to this approach: working in groups, students were explicitly not asked to develop solutions to pre-defined problems. On the contrary, they were invited to develop different takes, vary the takes (structure) and perspectives regarding existing circumstances and conjunctures and develop prospects through which opportunities and potentialities come to the fore. Formats and ideas were developed as we went along depending on what themes emerged. Concepts, proposals and themes were tested, while research-practice conversely produced new conceptions and theoretical reflections. It was precisely this relationship between theory and praxis – in learning and teaching – that encouraged both students and staff to reflect on their own roles and to recognise that this way of working is less one of researching and designing about or for, but with and within the specific conceptual and actual ‘neighbourhood’ of Wilhelmsburg and the particular historic context of the IBA. As ‘embedded researchers’, students and young professionals understood the UdN as a research station and point of departure to follow the people, things, conflicts and narratives42 in the neighbourhood of Wilhelmsburg. They engaged with the range of issues they observed, focusing on urban and architectural topics such as dwelling, local practices of urban production

41  The educational and research field Urban Design at HCU is based on an interdisciplinary approach to the city. It is dedicated to the study of contemporary urban structures with the aim of developing sustainable design strategies and implementing them in the built environment. Urban Design can be located between the fields of Architecture, Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture, between the urban research disciplines and the political implementation of plans. In an urban design practice committed to the social, economic and ecological conditions of today, planning instruments that are only aiming at the linear implementation of a constructional end product are no longer really suitable. The educational and research field Urban Design at HCU is constantly seeking to develop and expand the definition of Urban Design through its practice.


and embedded economy, re-cycling and up-cycling of materials, low-budget architecture, social engagement in the neighbourhood and education. Following their own motivations they employed, adapted and modified a diverse range of research methods like participant observation, artistic interventions or scenario techniques. One group of students, for example, created a post-it intervention on bus stations in Wilhelmsburg. ‘I AM WAITING FOR...’ invited passers-by to continue the post-its while waiting for the bus. The bus station became an explorative interaction tool and research method, while playing with people’s longer-term expectations during the wait for the bus.43 Yet students didn’t reflect on methods for their own sake. They were always related to a specific research interest and context and developed within the process. Following two earlier semester projects on ‘changing modes of production’, they initiated an international workshop to broaden the scope of approaches and to explore and discuss the issue of ‘Made in: local practices of urban production’ and ‘Local embedded economies’ with fellow students, guests and neighbours.44 Out of this local embeddedness, specific questions emerged around everyday practices. A study of ‘Kiosk-cultures’ investigated the phenomenon of little streetcorner shops on the island and their role as information hubs and places of difference.45 Locally embedded economies were further studied by exploring the field of ‘gastronomic entrepreneurs’ and their spatial and economic practices, their learning and innovation processes. Such gastronomic places function as a kind of crossroads or centralities of the urban as they bring together goods, people, infrastructure, symbols and information.46 Another study engaged with an in-depth participant observation of family businesses and changing modes or patterns of living and working under one roof.47 ‘Working Worlds’ – a performative videographic approach – explored the worlds of work and labour in Hamburg Wilhelmsburg.48 A research into the material flows in Hamburg addressed re- and up-cycling practices of the UdN and developed concepts for material stocks and up-cycling strategies in the construction sector, including concepts for re-establishing a more local production within the city.49 Revealing the biographies and transformative pathways of buildings under lowbudget conditions, one study particularly focused on ‘self-builds’, the motivations and rationales for lay-work.50

42  Compare with Marcus, G. E., 1995. Ethnography In/Of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology 24 (1): pp.95–117. 43  Assel, S., Michaelis, T., and Weber, V., 2011. ‘I AM WAITING FOR ...’ A Post-It Intervention. HCU-UD, UT2. 44  Michaelis, T., and Pohl, B., 2011. Made in ... Lokale Praktiken Urbaner Produktion. HCU-UD, UDP3. 45  Pohl, B., and Vollmer, H., 2011. Das Kommende Fest: Vom Kiosk Zur Offenen Wasserstelle. HCU-UD, UT2. 46  Pohl, B., and Vollmer, H., 2012. Das Kommende Mahl: Von der Feuerstelle zur Tischnachbarschaft. HCU-UD. 47  Benz, L., 2013. Alles unter einem Dach: Familienbetriebe in Wilhelmsburg. HCU-UD. 48  Fischer, L., Kwasi, O. A., Pfister, R., Popova, E., Rieger, E., Schönbeck, I., Stehr, M., and Vollmer, H., 2011. Arbeitswelten. HD-video. 45min. HCU-UD, IKP Explore Wilhelmsburg.


Based on a critical reflection of planning paradigms and modes of production of housing, an ‘experimental heterotopia’ was concerned with the question of dealing with the unplanned and expanding imaginable possibilities on the basis of what exists. Using the example of prefab housing, the study conceptualises planning as a transductive dynamic process as ‘a landscape of possibilities’.51 Departing from the more general question, another research project was concerned with the ‘spaces of possibilities’ and ‘enabling spaces’ of and within the UdN, and beyond in the wider context of Hamburg Wilhelmsburg.52 Pragmatically, the educational approach of the UdN was about ‘creating a safe space where students are willing to take risks, to move back and forth between the personal and the political, the biographical and the historical’53 as N.K. Denzin puts it. The students’ embeddedness necessitated developing and reflecting on their responsibilities for their own and others’ practices, actions and interpretations. Rather than banning subjectivity from the research process, subjective perceptions, reflections and interpretations were carefully considered and mobilised. The students’ and staffs’ embeddedness served as a point of departure that was not only more meaningful to those involved, but also supported the learning process: articulating motifs, finding positions and situating oneself within the research process allowed to develop critical subjectivities, rather than ‘objective expertise’. From this perspective, the triangle of learning, research and design practice built on an idea of ‘learning on demand’: ‘driven by the demand for, rather than supply of, knowledge’.54 Situations in which social interaction, theoretical reflections and 'architecturing' were all conceptually and practically inter-related, demonstrated the potential of and need for (self)responsibility and response-ability: in order to mutually understand the different professional languages and to further develop shared meaning, common language and practice, it is necessary to re-assemble the object of research, its (disciplinary) conceptions and its ‘terms and conditions’. We understand this as a fundamentally necessary task – both in the context of interdisciplinary interactions and beyond academia — in the transdisciplinary context of interaction between practitioners and ‘experts of the everyday’. This approach influenced by ‘action research’ — researching and designing with and not about or for people — developed in the Urban Design Programme at HCU is a central task for urban research cum education. If ‘design oriented’ disciplines such as architecture, planning and urban design train students to become ‘experts’, they necessarily make extensive use of their subjectivity. They rarely are

49  Dietrich, K. M. and Vollmer, H., 2011. Up-Cycling in Lokaler Produktion. HCU-UD, UDP3. 50  Bohmann, A., Hovy, K., and Herbst, C., 2012. Weiterwohnen – Haus- Und Lebenszyklen in Alt-Kirchdorf. HCUUD, UDP3. 51  Michaelis, T., and Pohl, B., 2010. Towards a Landscape of Possibilities. HCU-UD, UDP2. 52  Michaelis, T., 2012. Programm Möglichkeitsraum. Hamburg. 53  Denzin, N. K., 2010. The Qualitative Manifesto: A Call to Arms. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. p.69. 54  Gershenfeld, N., 2007. Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop – from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. London: Basic Books. p.7.


educated, however, to do qualitative research, to embed themselves within their field of urban interventions or even to understand the ‘languages’ of the other disciplines. In turn, the ‘research-oriented’ disciplines such as sociology, geography and anthropology to some extent still rely on the narrative of ‘objectivity’ and tend to objectify, externalise and separate the ‘urban’ from their own subjectivity. They rarely see themselves and their research products as interventions, subjectively fabricated and collectively co-authored representations, or from a performative perspective. This is even more important to consider as they influence the urban processes by means of their research and their subjective contributions to discourses. While this has been argued not least since the ‘crisis of representation and legitimisation’55 in the social sciences, it still has to be realized in practice. Insisting on the need for an alternative social imagination, our understanding of Urban Design is an attempt to disentangle itself from the traditional confines of architecture and planning.56

Opening up rather than concluding While our field of research and practice is the ‘urban’, we are embedded in socio-material, economic and cultural relations that make it up. This gives us the opportunity to locate ourselves within a performative ‘inter’ of ongoing negotiations, conflicts and compromises within hybrid and dynamic structures. We are (re)producing those structures and are conversely (re)produced by them — even, and perhaps particularly, as academics. Questioning our motivation and legitimisation to research and design the urban, and grounding this in our own everyday practices as planetary inhabitants, the aim is to consciously co-design our ‘Being-With’,57 our co-existence, and to escape — through conscious influence, hence design — the path-dependencies of a history which has become things and body,58 as Bourdieu framed the dialectical concept of field and habitus. The Dutch philosopher Henk Oosterling finds the very catchy phase of ‘Dasein is Design’ and demands with regards to Heidegger’s state of ‘thrownness’, being thrown together, that authentic Dasein creates a decisive turn by ‘moving together to design a society’: ‘We must ont-werpen our lives [the Dutch word for ‘design’ can also be read as ‘unthrow’ – Tr.]. [...] Thrownnessunthrowing: there you have the human condition.’59

55  Denzin, N.K., 2000. Aesthetics and the Practices o Qualitative Inquiry. Qualitative Inquiry 6 (2). pp.256–265. 56  Compare with Arabindoo, P., 2014. Urban Design in the Realm of Urban Studies. In: Carmona, M., ed. 2014. Explorations in Urban Design: An Urban Design Research Primer, London: Ashgate Publishing Limited. 57  Nancy, J-L., 2000. Being Singular Plural. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press. 58  Compare with Bourdieu, P., 2009. Entwurf einer Theorie der Praxis. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. pp.139; and Schwingel, M., 2011. Pierre Bourdieu zur Einführung, Hamburg:Junius; and Hillebrandt, F., 1999. Die Habitus-Feld-Theorie als Beitrag zur Mikro-Makro-Problematik in der Soziologie – aus der Sicht des Feldbegriffs. Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg. (Working Papers zur Modellierung sozialer Organisationsformen in der Sozionik, WP2).


As we see it, this requires a mutual ‘embeddedness’ of research and design in the various aspects of society and the ‘urban’. It also requires a permanent zooming-in and zooming-out between different scales and a back-and-forth between theory and practice. The aim is not to educate new generalists, but to expand the communicative and interface competencies of all actors involved in the processes of co-designing the urban. To return to our initial theme, ‘enabling architecture’ proceeds iteratively by over and over again producing and changing physical, social, institutional, imaginary and conceptual spaces. Here, architecture is not understood as something material, finished, built or made only. Widening Street’s concept of ‘culture as a verb’,60 both of our examples, ‘architecture’ and ‘kitchen’ equally present their performative qualities: both are processes, more verb than noun. As these examples denote, this methodological approach activates emerging potentials rather than planning a specific future and implementing a plan. Furthermore, it conceptually imparts a fruitful instability on the built. The ‘new’ is constantly revealed through the iterative variations of a theme. To unbolt the possibility of difference, the new requires accepting the risk of an at least temporary loss of control. New knowledge and hybrid cultural practice are accumulated and (de)stabilised in transformations of materiality as well as in habitual and performative practices of social relations, interactions, trust, mutual respect and ‘common symbolic capital’61 and of course in reflective texts. The challenge of such dynamic processes of knowledge accumulation is what Rheinberger describes as follows: ‘In order to move up to new things, the system must be destabilized — but without stabilisation it only produces noise. Stabilization and destabilization are interdependent. […] [But] in order to produce [new things] in sufficient quantity, experimenters must preferably manoeuvre on the border of the collapse of their research unit.’62 Withstanding this mode of uncertainty we have to deal with regarding the urban, and gaining confidence and capacity for handling its in-stability is nothing we can learn from books, or that someone can teach us, nor can we derive a blueprint or best-practice example from it. We can only practice-research it.

59  Oosterling, H., 2010. Dasein as Design. Or: Must Design save the World? In: Premsela, 2010. From Mad Dutch Disease to Born to Adorn. Premsela Lectures. Amsterdam: Premsela. pp.115-140, 198-221. 60  Compare with Street, B., 1993. Culture is a verb: Anthropological aspects of language and cultural process. Language and culture, pp.23–43. 61  Harvey, D., 2013. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. London: Verso. p.170; and Bourdieu, P., 1983. Ökonomisches Kapital, kulturelles Kapital, soziales Kapital. In: Reinhard Kreckel, ed., »Soziale Ungleichheiten«,. Göttingen: Schwartz. pp.183–198. 62  Rheinberger, H-J., 2006. Experimentalsysteme und epistemische Dinge: eine Geschichte der Proteinsynthese im Reagenzglas. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. p.97.


Graffiti on a wall of the ZEGG premises. Š Katharina Moebus.

Cordula Andrä, born 1967, lives in the ZEGG community and works as press coordinator for the ZEGG company. ZEGG is a living experiment that focuses on questions of communal living and ecological economic activities. By linking communal life with a training centre, a special combination of living and learning is created. Cordula loves to connect inner and outer worlds — on a personal level and beyond. Between 2002 and 2009, she was academic consultant of the green party in the Bundestag (lower house of the German parliament) and between 1999 and 2001 she was a web designer. Interviewed by KM.



An experiment put into practice with Cordula Andrä, ZEGG - Centre for Experimental Cultural and Social Design

ZEGG stands for Zentrum für Experimentelle Gesellschaftsgestaltung – Centre for Experimental Cultural and Social Design. It is an intentional community living in the small town of Bad Belzig, an hour away from Berlin. ZEGG has existed for more than twenty years since its foundation in 1991 and reinvented itself more than once over the years. ZEGG's press coordinator Cordula Andrä kindly met us on a sunny fall afternoon in their garden, which feeds the community and their guests to fifty percent with organic vegetarian food, the rest is bought from organic farms and producers. Two white chairs are blinking in the sun under one of the trees, inviting us to sit down and start our conversation about ZEGG, its intentions, goals and activities. Cordula, do you like living here? Oh yes, I do! I don’t know how much you know about ZEGG, but you might have heard some of the rumours… You mean, such as everyone running around naked making love with everyone? Yeah, and ZEGG being a sex sect with a guru, I heard these rumours before I came here… But when I came here for the first time, I realised it’s not like that at all. There is no guru, the community is organised democratically and in flat hierarchies. We do experiment in the field of love, relating and sexuality, but that is not the only focus of the community. It might have been different in its early years when the founder Dieter Duhm was still around. He was perceived as some kind of leader, even though he left to Portugal to found Tamera1 in the beginning of the 1990s. But ever since his departure, ZEGG focused on finding ways of organising without the need for a strong leader.

1  Tamera is a ‘peace research project’ and intentional community located in Portugal. Their goal is to develop and create a model for a future society free from hatred, lies, violence and fear. More info:


Why did he leave? I don't really know. I think that one big issue was the bad reputation of the community. They received a lot of negative attention from the press. This prevented them from having a positive effect on the outside world, which was one of their main ideas. I guess it needed him to leave to be able to start all over again. In Tamera, they learnt from their mistakes and used an entirely different Public Relations (PR) strategy for many years — the topic of free love was not brought forward at all. (We start walking towards the ZEGG area to visit some of the buildings and get a coffee and cake from the village pub (‘Dorfkneipe’), while continuing our conversation) How does ZEGG present itself to the outside world? We present ZEGG in a self-confident and solid way. In the beginning, there used to be ideology and dogmatism, but ZEGG has changed and became a tolerant place that is open towards different ways of living. It is not focused on one topic only. Ecology is one big theme, but also other important things in life are considered, such as how to live and work cooperatively, finding out everybody’s individual needs and dreams together. And the love and relationship issue is also important. I find that very comforting. We try to show only what there really is, no more and no less. It seems to work. If you could put it in one sentence: what is ZEGG today, what is its vision? I’d describe it as an experiment put into practice. We also have it in our name, ZEGG Centre for Experimental Cultural and Social Design. We constantly try to find new ways of socialising, living ecologically and making a livelihood out of it. What makes it special is that we try to bring all of these social areas together instead of separating them. What is special are the connections between, for example, our seminar centre and community life, where our seminars and courses are interwoven with our lives. Here, you can see our restaurant and guest house where we have around 14000 people staying overnight each year, so it’s going quite well. In summer, we put up tents and we can host around 300 people per night, in winter we can host around 100 to 120 people per night. Where do your guests come from? From all over Germany, also from Austria and Switzerland and other parts of the world. During summer, people can come here to work and support us, so we have many young people from all over the world. ZEGG is quite popular and famous in the ‘community scene’. What do you think has made it last for so long? That’s a good question! Somebody else just recently asked me the same thing. I think there are many layers to it. One important thing is the balance between our


business and the community. They are very interrelated. The community owns the business. Many community members work in the seminar centre, such as the kitchen, the guest house, giving seminars, organising festivals and so on. The community on the other side is our social form, dealing with the more personal questions. So there are conflicts between the two naturally. But the business never took over the community and vice versa, the community never ran down the business. It is vital to keep both things alive, to be able to have a stable financial basis for our social experiments. Another thing is that we don’t always have the same people living here, people come and go, but usually they do not stay for the rest of their lives. Together with the lively exchanges we have with our guests, we never end up seeing only the same faces every day. So people don’t come here to stay? No, usually not for a lifetime. We are around eighty adults now, and there are maybe ten or fifteen of them who have been around for very long or from the very beginning. We were talking about why ZEGG still exists… Right. Well, running our business has actually also led to a lot of disagreements and discussions. Many think it is taking over too much and would like to separate it more from our community life. It can be quite stressful at times with seminar participants running around your backyard every weekend, even if you don’t have to deal with them personally, they move around the same spaces as you, arrive, leave, and ask, and so on. Public and private spaces are strongly crossing over into each other, which can be strenuous at times. So we are planning new housing in the community area, so that there is more privacy for community members. You said you were organised in flat hierarchies before – what exactly does that mean, how do you organise yourselves now? Basically, we have two structures: one is dealing with our business, for which we have been using a holacratic model2 for around three years. It is a sociocratic3 form of governance that emerged from the integral scene in the United States.4 It is a new form of management, but also a philosophy.

2  Holacracy is a system of organising in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout selforganising teams rather than being concentrated at the top of a hierarchy’. Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Holacracy 3  ‘Sociocracy is a system of governance using consent-based decision-making among equivalent individuals’. In a wider sense, sociocracy means the rule by the “socios,” people who have a social relationship with each other. Source: Wikipedia, 4  The integral scene is based on integral theory as promoted by Ken Wilber, a ‘theory of everything’ that aims to synthesise the best of pre-modern, modern and postmodern reality. The growing subculture is also referred to as “Integral Culture” or as “Cultural Creatives” by Paul H. Ray. Source: Wikipedia, and




Autumn walk through the ZEGG community. All images Š Katharina Moebus.

If there is a tension between or within co-workers, it is considered an impulse for action and becomes central topic for a meeting. Tensions are seen as something positive. We try to separate the factual from the emotional. The system is flexible and agile to allow immediate solutions without being The system is flexible and too worried about possible failures. A sort of trial and agile to allow immediate error system to tackle problems. Nothing is irreverssolutions without being ible. Therefore, risks can be taken much more easily. too worried about Our business is organised in teams that are each repossible failures sponsible for an area of activity, such as the garden team. In the management team representatives from each circle come together to decide about larger issues. The other structure is the communal one, where the whole community comes together once a week to decide about social issues such as housing, how we socialise, who moves into the community and questions This works as a plenary. And how do people live? Most live in shared flats, just a few live by themselves and those are mainly the older ones. Do most people also work here or elsewhere? I’d say around fifty-fifty. Half of the people work here and most of the people who live here have a mixed model, making a living with seminars whilst doing something else on the side, such as permaculture or gardening. Some people even work in Berlin or as web-based freelancers. In fact, it’s not so easy to earn money around here. It’s a topic of discussion, not only around here, but also in the surrounding region. Wages are low and jobs are short. I wondered whether there are alternative currencies and economic models around here… Yes and no. In the beginning we had a model that said: everybody contributes what they can and in return they can eat and sleep here. That model didn’t work out. After some years ZEGG was almost bankrupt and debts were piling up, so they started to develop a model based on hours. You get paid according to the hours you work. Everyone earns the same hourly wage, no matter whether it is for working as a managing director or as a cleaner. Regarding self-sufficiency, we have our own energy supply, the garden produces fifty percent of our fruit and vegetable consumption. So to some degree, we are selfsufficient. It was never our goal to be completely self-sufficient though, definitely not! How does the ZEGG community perceive the outside world – as us and the outside, or us with the outside? In the past years, we’ve been doing a lot of networking in the region on both economic and social levels. For example, we buy our eggs locally, employ local crafts-


men and so on. ZEGG has opened up a lot in the past years and has therefore become more integrated in the surrounding region. A lot more than in the beginning when it was perceived like some sort of alien element. Shortly after its opening the first negative articles started to appear, so one can imagine what people’s common opinion looked like. The other day, a Social Democratic Party (SPD)5 politician who had always been always against us paid us a visit. We had invited him because we wanted to show him our positive attitude. He used to work on the premises at the time of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), so he could tell us some stories about the history of our grounds. We actually do a lot to achieve better relationships with local stakeholders. Did you ever try to collaborate on projects with policy-makers and politicians? It could be quite interesting for them to get inspired by your small-scale experiments… Yes, we did indeed! For example, the city was interested in our energy concept. We installed a very modern eco-efficient heating system and they asked us for our plans. The other day, we had a very interesting visit by a lady from the region who said she had always wanted to visit our community for years since her children go to the same school as some of ours. She said that ZEGG people are always so friendly and positive, so our special social and communicative skills don’t go unnoticed by our neighbours and people around. How do you deal with all the interest from visitors and the press? Well, it’s nice that people are interested. The only thing I find annoying is that many press reports end with the final message: “Kind of nice what they do, but I could never imagine anything like that for myself, and it would never work for the whole of society.” Mostly, people pigeonhole community members as some wild-haired hippies who don’t know what they are doing. For us, of course it’s still the sort of feedback which makes us question what we are doing for the rest of the world. Why do we have to do our own little thing outside of society, why not within? It’s a constant field of tension. For many years I worked for the green party’s parliamentary group, and at some point I really started questioning where societal changes actually happen. My own experiences in mainstream society led me to the conclusion that it’s the small citizen initiatives and NOT the policy-makers who make new things happen I wanted to be part of such a group to experience, feel and become part of something tangible, even if it’s a little weird or crazy, without having to be concerned about eligibility for the next election.

5  SPD stands for the Social Democratic Party in Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands), which is one of the two major political parties in Germany along with the conservative CDU/CSU.


I really love ZEGG’s name - Zentrum für Experimentelle Gesellschaftsgestaltung because it includes the term ‘experiment’. You don’t pretend to know it all. It’s an ongoing experiment and it’s OK to fail and try again. It leads me to another term included in your name: design. For our book, we try to expand the common understanding of what design can be. Design as a transformative process that includes all as agents, similar to Beuys’ notion of the social sculpture6 which sees society as a piece of art that can be sculpted together in ‘designerly’ ways. Do you think there is any way to scale up existing structures and ways of organizing that came out of the many years of experimenting and designing? Well, I don’t think ZEGG can be transferred directly to larger society. There is this new buzzword that seems to come up in each interview, social innovation. But actually it’s a justified and very good question. There’s a lot of social innovation within ZEGG. I started wondering how our cultural techniques can be applied elsewhere. We are now just beginning to question our practices and learnings to find out how that could work. I’d be curious to learn more, there is so much potential in small communities. One important part for ZEGG’s resilience over the years has been our culture of selfreflection and conflict resolution. Every conflict is considered to have many layers; as I said before, personal and factual layers need to be separated to resolve a conflict constructively. In resolving a conflict together, everybody’s opinion needs to be accepted as part of the collective intelligence. There are no personal fights between two individuals, everybody is part of the whole system. Resolutions come into being through the collective exchange of ideas and statements. Non-violent communication is one of our basic philosophies for the way we communicate. What we use a lot is ZEGG-Forum,7 a method of group communication that was created here in ZEGG. It is very popular with other communities already. Most communities and people-driven initiatives fail due to people-driven conflicts that are impossible to resolve. There are a lot of interesting approaches such as co-design and design thinking methods to tackle problems creatively together with many people. It’s interesting how these different methods can support such co-creative processes which are democratic in their best case scenarios. How can each voice be heard? Of course, not everybody can always be happy with every solution. But it helps to let go of certain things when you realise there are people enthusiastic for something, Why not just let them do it and put trust into them? I am happy to let go of certain things. Together it’s less work and leads to better outcomes because people

6  ‘Joseph Beuys was a German Fluxus and performance artist as well as a sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist and pedagogue of art. His work is grounded in concepts of humanism, social philosophy and anthroposophy, culminating in his “extended definition of art” and the idea of the “social sculpture”, for which he claimed a creative, participatory role of every citizen in shaping society and politics. He is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century’. Source: Wikipedia, 7  More info:


are passionate and feel like they are doing something meaningful for the general good. To be part of a larger thing bearing the same philosophy creates the social glue so necessary for a well-functioning community.

To be part of a larger thing bearing the same philosophy creates the social glue so necessary for a wellfunctioning community

Are you planning to live in ZEGG for a long time? Definitely, I still want to stay here for some more years. The way people treat each other, the way people communicate genuinely and the way people deal with their emotions is very distinct and comforting. The roles people have to switch between back-and-forth constantly in larger society is replaced by a general very open-minded authenticity that adds a lot to one’s quality of life. Transparency seems to make people take over more responsibility for their actions; in larger society, it could be applied to the effects and functions of social media and the internet with all its positive and negative effects. How does transparency work in ZEGG? Yes, transparency does link to responsibility for actions. Also, people often hide aspects of themselves that are very beautiful. I think a lot of emotional and personal depth is lost if we don’t deal with our inner selves and feelings. This is one of the main qualities of living here, besides the organisational structures here and other things. And part of the social innovation in ZEGG. How do you communicate internally? Mostly, we just talk to each other directly. Otherwise, we usually use emails or our physical post boxes. Cell phones are not so popular around here. I’d really love to have an intranet for ZEGG, which was just recently begun by an enthusiastic new community member, so let’s hope that we get this functioning. But let me show you another important place for us…

We arrive at the postal room, where a black board and other walls display meeting reports, notices, adverts, open calls, a gift table with unused stuff free to take… We continue our walk to the ‘university’, the biggest common room where seminars are held. Cordula provides me with a pile of informative and inspirational print material. Thanks Cordula!


Editors of the Berlin Guide: Francesca Weber-Newth & Isolde Nagel. © Francesca Weber-Newth.

Francesca Weber-Newth (FWN) is a sociologist, currently completing her PhD. Her research focuses on processes of urban regeneration in London and Berlin. She lives in Berlin, and since 2011 she has been a research fellow at the Centre for Metropolitan Studies, Technische Universität Berlin. Her activities outside academia include collaborations with a filmmaker (documentary film: Mauerpark Berlin 2011), poet (urban walk: Walking is not an Olympic Sport 2012), and designer (website and audio archive: Inhabitsounds). She is co-editor of the Community Lover’s Guide to Berlin (2013). Isolde Nagel (IN) is an architect and curator working in Potsdam and Berlin. In 2006 she founded the platform A TRANS and since 2011 she has been engaged in the Network of Berlin Independent Project Spaces and Initiatives. A TRANS establishes an urban-oriented theme each year, and collaborators are invited to conceptualise and realise projects that reach beyond individual disciplinary boundaries, whilst valuing artistic-architectural visions and showing commitment to social questions. See more at: Interviewed by KM.



Culture as a uniting element with Francesca Weber-Newth and Isolde Nagel, Community Lover’s Guide to Berlin

Francesca Weber-Newth and Isolde Nagel are the two editors of the 2013 published The Community Lover’s Guide to Berlin,1 a guidebook to non-profit community projects in Berlin. Francesca is a sociologist and currently writing her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis on urban regeneration schemes in London and Berlin and their effects on adjacent neighbourhoods; Isolde is an architect based in Berlin with a special interest in urbanity and curating. The launch of their book took place some weeks ago in the form of a bike tour through Berlin, visiting some of the featured projects. The book is one of the local editions of the larger project The Community Lover’s Guide to the Universe,2 initiated by Tessy Britton, Laura Billings and Maurice Specht in the UK and Netherlands in 2011. Since then, nine editions have been published and more than thirty are in production around the world. Fran and Isolde, how did you two come across the Community Lover’s Guide to the Universe (CLGU) and get involved in making the Berlin version? FWN: I first came across the Hackney edition, edited by Laura Billings. Hackney is a borough in London close to where I grew up and it is also the area where I am doing my PhD fieldwork. I was asked to write a chapter, and that's how I got familiar with the larger project. Laura mentioned a Community Lover’s Guide for Berlin. As I live and research in Berlin, I was keen! I was told somebody else was also interested, so we got in touch and joined forces. Isolde knew about the book series through the Rotterdam Guide, so we came together through these different channels. IN: I have lived in Berlin for many years, so I already knew some of the older initiatives such as Schokofabrik3 and UfaFabrik4 from my student days. It was interesting

1  Walsh, F. and Nagel, I. eds., 2013. The Community Lover’s Guide to Berlin. UK: Blurb Books. 2  More info: 3  Schokofabrik is Berlin’s largest women’s centre started in the 1980s to support and empower women, lesbians and girls. It offers counselling, education, services, and recreational activities. More info: 4  UfaFabrik is an international centre of culture and ecology located in Berlin. More info:


to explore how they had developed over the years. We wanted to see whether they had kept their enthusiasm and philosophies, which was really exciting to see. Those two initiatives managed to both sustain themselves in Berlin without losing their relevance to present times. Through them, we found out about other initiatives such as ID22 — Institute for Creative Sustainability5 (Institut für Kreative Nachhaltigkeit). It just went on like that, people telling us about other projects. In the book, you write about the range of projects you chose, some younger initiatives that have just been started and others that have existed for years. During the book launch, you also mentioned that some initiatives ceased to exist during your research process. Can you expand on this? IN: On the one hand I think it is connected to the whole history and urban development of Berlin. The free and empty spaces that once existed became part of a market that is becoming more and more exclusive. Sometimes, a project is started with a lot of enthusiasm, but at some point you realise how it outgrows its capacities. There can be different, often banal things that can ‘kill’ a project, such as suddenly having to pay rent, or other changes of external conditions. There are also people who come to Berlin for just a short period of time, initiate something, which then disappears, together with the initiators. Some small projects might merge with others or might also be maybe taken over by bigger ones. When you chose projects for the book, what were the common features that were important for you? FWN: The common basis was non-profit and inclusiveness, even though we need to be careful with these terms. It was important to us that people from all socioeconomic strata would be included. Inclusiveness, no matter if male or female, black or white. Still, we have cases such as Schokofabrik which The common basis is a project that concentrates on a women-only comwas non-profit and munity. The ‘exclusiveness’ has a particular function; to inclusiveness support a certain group of potentially vulnerable people. IN: The projects we chose were also about urbanity, the ‘kiez’,6 but also Berlin as a city with its open spaces, particularly expressed in urban gardens. We featured three in the book, but th