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Dick Urban Vestbro is a professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, member of Architecture Without Borders, chairman of – association formed in 1981, working to inform the public and authorities about collaborative housing and other alternative ways of living.

“Living together – Collaborative housing and other ways of living.” Dick Urban Vestbro is the author of the book “Living together – Cohousing Ideas and Realities Around the World” - an excellent source of material for researchers, housing companies, politicians, activists and nongovernment organisations interested in how to solve challenges linked to the ageing of societies and other transformations in household structures, how to relate to the problems of urban anonymity and isolation, or how to bring to life the potential of neighbourly cooperation and the search for less unsustainable lifestyles. He is also a chairman of The Swedish National Association Cohousing NOW – in Swedish Kollektivhus NU – an association working to promote collaborative housing and other alternative ways of living. The association supports existing co-housing units as well as groups intending to create new units. Originally formed in 1981, it has recently been revitalised with the prime purpose to inform the public about cohousing as an alternative, and to influence authorities to facilitate the creation and running of such units. Kollektivhus NU currently has 41 cohousing units as full members, and 9 organisations working in favour of collaborative housing. There are also a number of individual supporting members. The just over 40 cohousing units that exist in Sweden are mainly the result of civil society campaigns and positive responses from public housing authorities during the 1980s. They represent a minute fraction of the housing stock. A vast majority of Swedes are unaware of alternatives such as collaborative housing, eco-villages etc. The existing cohousing units are concentrated to the main urban centres. Today the trend is turning in favour of collaborative housing. In the last five years six new units have been built, and more are on their way. Kollektivhus NU has an active collaboration with SABO – the umbrella organisation Swedish Association of Municipal Housing Companies – and its recent publication "Togetherness and cooperation – to create and live in co-housing units" (so far only in Swedish, co-published with SABO) is increasingly consulted by politicians, housing companies and individuals.




Community Tools (CT) is a free web-based software for managing activities and communication within location-based communities. Considering that a community can be anything from a neighborhood or apartment association, to a football team, this toolbox is a practical resource to provide best communication features for local communities, connect communities worldwide and encourage people to initiate new developments to change surrounding environments for the better.

“Community Tools - software for managing community activities and communication.” Community Tools creation was driven by the need to effectively manage communication and information flow in a local community. Even if people are willing to contribute and get involved, some really important communication issues occured. Organising large groups of people involves fast and accurate information change. When CT’s team noticed, that there was a lack of matching solutions for their specific needs they decided to create their own software to get in touch with other communities to create a network to share ideas, get inspiration and avoid mistakes others have gotten stuck into. Since Community Tolls aims to improve location-based communication, they emphasize on tying information with geographic data — events, news, announcements, institutions, etc. are displayed both in text form as well as on map. At the moment the beta-version of the software is being used by about a dozen local communities in Tallinn, Estonia and a few interest-based communities, and it enables them to create groups, member management, articles (news), ideas, problems, events, galleries, map, forum, comments, e-mail alerts and RSS feeds. Next task on CT list is to create a Big Map which gives an overview of geotagged data that people have shared. For example, if communities in Finland, Estonia and Romania have mapped ugly garbage piles that need to be removed, it’s possible to display it all on one map (RSS) to get a better overview and see the Big Picture. Or to see the Local Picture. This can be done with any kind of geotagged information, be it events, potholes in roads, the spread of wild animals or anything else. Another cool app they have in mind is Stuffarium which is kind of online library of things owned by community members, which they would happily lend out to others – be it construction tools or rare arthouse movie DVDs. You might wonder what makes CT stand out from other social media platforms and group work services like Facebook, Ning, Orkut, Google Docs? The main difference is that CT is an open source project, advertisement-free and not serving the needs of any corporation. Other difference is that most social media platforms are only available as an online service - with CT everyone can install it on their own server and adjust to their needs. As CT teams states on their website: ”We believe that open source, creative commons, open data and user generated content are the key terms in future. So, these are the values we carry in mind. Our team is a mix of community leaders, urban students, information architects, software developers and designers.” Sources:




Helen Jarvis is Reader in Social Geography at Newcastle University, UK. She specialises in urban social geography with a special focus on housing and urban structure, and the intersection of work, employment and gender relations (work-life reconciliation). She is regularly invited to speak publicly on the subject of alternative housing and sustainable de-growth by grassroots community groups as well as academic institutions overseas. Helen has held visiting academic positions at UC Berkeley and University of Washington, USA and University of Western Sydney, Australia.

“Collaborative Communities: ‘Soft’ Infrastructures of Conviviality and Sharing” Around the world, market-led economies face a worsening housing crisis- and the solution arguably lies not in housing alone but in a radical reimagining of ‘why’ we live our lives. Missing from conventional models of housing and community development is a conceptual framework that recognises the significance of a ‘soft’ infrastructure as counterpoint to the priority usually given to the material (monetary) assets and investments in the ‘where and how’ of human existence. Conviviality and sharing are simple ideas but they are frequently overlooked in conventional approaches to ‘building’ community. It is widely known that the carbon footprint of the average home (land, energy and consumer goods and services) has increased, while the average household has been shrinking in size and the social sites and milieu of production, consumption and social reproduction are increasingly dispersed and disconnected. Conventional urban structure cultivates neither the interaction and trust nor the practical mechanisms necessary for neighbours to collectively purchase and manage shared tools and appliances as a means to overcome the waste and excess of highly individual, convenience driven consumption. This highlights the importance of tackling future improvements to housing and community as integrated functions of sustainability across multiple scales of dwelling and livelihood. Drawing on a variety of social experiments in different community settings, this paper reveals how the shared space and social time of collaborative community incubates new sharing economies. It is especially instructive to examine the concepts and relations of conviviality and sharing in collaborative community at a time when ambitious claims are made regarding computer-mediated sharing. Indeed, we can observe many examples of successful sharing and of a deep yearning for meaningful reciprocity, yet there is a persistent reluctance by the state and mainstream debate to make this a priority for consideration in future planning and policy. Helen Jarvis is currently researching everyday life in relation to experiments and innovations in collaborative housing and intentional community (notably co-housing), comparing group formation, practices of collective governance and alternative living space in Britain, Scandinavia, Australia and the USA.



Jadwiga Łopata ICPPC – International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside RESEARCHER, ECOLOGICAL ACTIVIST

Co-founder and vice-president of ICPPC as well as an initiator of the European Centre for Ecological Agriculture and Tourism-Poland (ECEAT). She was the head of the latter organisation for 10 years and at the time ECEAT was presented with British Airways “Tourism for Tomorrow” award in “ecotourism” category. Jadwiga Łopata is also a member of Ashoka - Innovators for the Public. She was the first European in the history to receive Goldman Environmental Prize, called “ecological Nobel” for international campaign for protecting small Polish family farms.

“Food Independence and Family Farms.” Jadwiga Łopata is running ICPPC together with sir Julian Rose, English farmer and ecological activist. He says: “It’s high time European Union realised that promoting industrial agriculture and GMO is in contradiction with sustainable development”. ICPPC has always been demanding a support and promotion for preserving the shape of Polish countryside, that is: a traditional and ecological agriculture, pro-environmental methods of producing food of high quality, eco-tourism, conservation of biodiversity and traditional values. Jadwiga Łopata directs one of the ICPPC Ecocentre’s projects “Looking into the future”. She invested her Goldman Award into the above mentioned center, where everyone can test modern ecological solutions and observe the merging of recent technologies with traditional ones. Creating Ecocentre was a natural follow up of pro-environmental, promotional actions. In 2001 the seat was visited by prince Karol. Since 2004 ICPPC has been running a huge campaign around a slogan “GMO free Poland”. Over 350 associations and experts has joined so far. She also organises conferences, gives lectures, writes articles and brochures of Polish and international scope. The activist is an appointed fellow of Ashoka - the international organisation that promotes innovators, nominated by Dr Ryszard Praszkier, who claims that her activities in favour of villages are priceless. “By declaring her ideas out loud, she helped family farms to survive, in the times when it seemed impossible that they would, due to the invasion of cheap food from the Western countries, donated and grown on inorganic fertilisers and plant protection products”. To watch Jadwiga Łopata giving a lecture on food independency during TEDX Cracow, please visit:





Co-founder of Incredible Edible - one of the most successul community organisations & initiatives in Yorkshire, England. She used to be a Community Development Officer, now describes herself as an activist, home maker, landscaper, dreamer and builder of all things good. Mary is passionate about turning our gray urban landscapes into something more colourful and livelymainly through planting vegetables in public places and cooperating with local growers and communities. In her campaign for local food Mary is definitely doing what people say can’t be done.

“Incredible Edible’s campaign for local food and community growers.” The old market town of Todmorden lies between Burnley and Halifax, on the borders of Lancashire and West Yorkshire in the Pennines. There, where many strong rivers once powered the machine looms, an industrious cultivation project has begun to flow, a kind of market gardening with free produce and shared ideas. Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET ) is a pioneering project to create a sustainable healthy food chain. Say the word 'healthy' and many are put off. But this scheme is so different and ahead of its time that other towns are taking up the same ideas and it is taking root world-wide. The main idea behind IET is to make the town self-sufficient in food. As Mary Clear says: "We began it as a response, how could we make a difference, we didn't want to be victims waiting for other people to do it, we weren't following money we were doing it first, showing that we could”. Now, in a town of 15,000 everybody grows food, from veggies to trees. What started as guerilla gardening soon won approval. People have started their own initiatives which range from Every egg matters to a new local cheese. There are free vegetables plots, and even planting in the corner of the car park, such as the cherry trees at Lidl's. There is co-operation with local enterprises like Pennine Housing who are giving out free starter seeds and growing troughs, so the town is being transformed. Todmorden has also an apothecary's garden at the health centre, a poly-tunnel and a growing boat at the high school. They even started thinking about an aquaponics unit. There are cookery workshops and ideas exchange and an opportunity to learn. In a town long known for its farming, Incredible Edible are getting back to the importance of healthy lives, buying local and all that that means. There's been planting below the viaduct. And local graveyards have seen new life with bulbs or fruit bushes, whether it's the Quaker, Baptist or the Unitarian church, or even the police station's graveyard. Mary encourages everyone to buy local and be self-sufficient with your own resoures and skills. IET was recently visited by Prince of Wales who said: "The Incredible Edible Todmorden initiative is inspiring. I am thrilled that the Start tour has highlighted it as a shining example of how individuals in communities can support one another to live more sustainable lives." You can watch a short interview with IET at: Sources:



Ján Šlinský, Slovakian, studied horticulture at Brno University of Agriculture. After graduation he became a Head of the JRD Vegetable Center in Pavlovce Uhom, which he begun to independently "manage" in 1991. Author of Agrokruh - a concept developed for a sustainable cultivation of vegetables on a family farm. Ján is passionate about organic farming, sustainable agriculture and innovative food production.

“Revolutionary organic vegetable farming.” Agrokruh is a system created specifically for sustainable methods of growing vegetables on a family farm. It is expected that this sector will be developed, also in terms of profitability, in all countries of the Visegrad Group, as already demand exceeds supply. Growing vegetables in the system Agrokruh does not need a tractor or other heavy machinery, the use of which contributes to soil compaction. The entire concept runs on electricity. In the past, electric power was generated by, for example, "bicycle" (human powered) or animals (powered by muscle donkey). In the future, depending on financial resources, we will be more likely to get electric power from photovoltaic panels. Agrokruh concept was invented in 2006-2007 in Slovakia, due to a grant provided by the TOYOTA company. Farm land was donated by the enthusiastic member of the community. The construction costs of the system were approximately 60 000 € (in mass production costs could be lower, due to the existing possibility of self-servicing, maintenance also would reduce by at least half). The model farm is located in southwestern Slovakia, near the Little Danube river, near the village of Hruby Sur. The farm, which was designed to produce vegetables for about 60 customers, is a family farm and ensures the maintenance of a farmer's family. Costs incurred for the purchase of technology (without interest) shall be paid in Slovak conditions within 6 years. The farmer repays the debt to the local community, offering its members a healthy and cheap vegetables. The system is designed to meet the minimum requirements for energy consumption of different types of vegetables growing under optimal conditions, environmental, economic and social issues. A sample farm is divided into 15 plots, each of which takes the form of a circle with a diameter of 36 meters and the surface of 1072 m2. Such an area can be managed by a qualified farmer, using seasonal help a small group of people (for example family members). Dividing the land into 15 parcels of land allows to use remaining unoccupied area of a total of about 0.5 ha. It is earmarked for cultivation of various herbs (the tea and spices), flowers and flowering weeds that attract many species of pollinators and natural enemies of pests.



Barbara Jones StrawWorks


Barbara Jones is Founder of Straw Works and former Director of amazonails. Author of “Building with Straw Bales: A Practical Guide for the UK and Ireland”. Due to her incredible experience she is the most influential european straw bale builder and is regularly invited to speak publicly on the subject of natural architecture. Awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Women in Construction, and names as a Woman of Outstanding Achievement by the UK Resource Centre for Women.

“Building with straw bales” Barbara has 30 years experience in construction as a roofer, joiner and strawbale builder. She travelled in the USA and Canada in 1995 on a Winston Churchill Fellowship, researching strawbale building and gaining more experience, adapting techniques she learnt there to make them more suitable for the European climate and, with the help of a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship, incorporated knowledge of traditional crafts such as lime plastering and coppicing into designs and methods to simplify them and make them more sustainable and appropriate for the 21st century. In 2011 she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Women in Construction, and in 2009 was named as a Woman of Outstanding Achievement by the UK Resource Centre for Women. Formerly Director of amazonails, she now runs her own company: Straw Works, and is recognised as one of the leading designers of strawbale houses in Europe. Barbara Jones has been developing techniques and simplifying practice in strawbale building and low impact foundations since 1994 and has direct experience of over 300 builds, with an international reputation for her empowering style of on-site practical training.



Georg Maybaum HAWK Holzminden, Germany

(University of Applied Sciences and Arts)


Professor Georg Maybaum is Head of the Institute for Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering. Formerly Partner of Prof.Rodatz and Partners, geo-technical engineering consultants. Graduated from Technical Universities of Darmstadt and Dortmund, Germany and Technical University of Brunswick, Germany.

“Building with rammed earth - experience, scientific research & architectural design.” The HAWK (Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaft und Kunst) in Holzminden was founded in 1831 in order to qualify master craftsmen, and in the last decades transformed into a University of applied sciences and arts focussing on engineering and architecture. Nowadays bachelor and master courses of construction management, green building, real estate management, industrial engineers and in addition to that social works are offered to about 1000 students. Since 2000/2001 schoolyear Prof. Dr.-Ing. Georg Maybaum is responsible at the HAWK for the area of geotechnical engineering, soil mechanics and foundation engineering. The analysis of the components and the behaviour of the soils which build natural materials is part of his research program. Loam which is the basis for producing earthen works is therefore at HAWK a well-known material in theory and practical work. In summer 2008 e.g. he was one of the organizers and teachers of the three weeks lasting summer school ‘Cultural heritage. Sustainable buildings with traditional techniques’ at the Universidad Internacional (UNINTER) in Cuernavaca, Mo-relos, Mexico. Furthermore Georg Maybaum has international experience in science and in praxis which is documented in many published articles both in Europe and abroad. He was also the leader of work-package 2 ‘User cases and best practice in meeting stakeholder needs’ within the EU-funded OneGeology - Europe Project. In his lecture, prof. Maybaum will concentrate on research programs including simple and elaborate laboratory tests (material mixture, durability, bearing capacity, etc.) as well as on some extraordinary examples of architecture and construction, which are mostly sacral buildings in Germany.



Frank Kresin Waag Society RESEARCH DIRECTOR

Frank Kresin is Research Director at Waag Society and responsible for the research programme. This consists of six lines, aimed at healthcare, education, culture, society, the government and the business world. Frank has a background as filmmaker; he has a master degree Artificial Intelligence of the University of Amsterdam and was programme manager at the Dutch Digital University Consortium.

“If you can't open it, you don't own it.” In 2006 Makezine, a magazine aimed at people who enjoy making all kinds of things themselves, came up with the owners manifesto. The manifesto was introduced as: “If you can't open it, you don't own it: a Maker's Bill of Rights to accessible, extensive, and repairable hardware.” The manifesto is a very practical statement aimed towards the manufacturing industry. Makezine and likeminded people want to be able to repair and tinker with products. In other words, make them their own. In this presentation Frank Kresin takes one of Waag Society's latest projects, FairPhone, as a starting point to explore the invisible systems behind our products. From the conflicts around mineral mining in Congo to the business models that create closed and "designed for the dump" phones. By opening up a phone or any other product to the source, you open up the systems that make it into a product. You get to understand the actions that are needed to change these systems. Bas van Abel, creative director of Waag Society believes that this "ownership through opening" will catalyze more responsibility, both within the industry and within society. Additional information: A Fablab (short for: fabrication laboratory) is a fully equipped fabrication workshop that gives everyone, from small children to entrepreneurs and businesses, the capability to turn their ideas and concepts into reality. The aim is to make almost anything! Fablab is an international community that wants to share knowledge. Fablabs worldwide have the same equipment and capabilities. The labs also share digital designs and fabricated solutions forming a network of intellectual property for ideas exchange. The Fablab Amsterdam is hosted by Waag Society, a non - profit organisation active in the field of social innovation through creative technology.Born as an outreach project by Professor Neil Gershenfeld, Director of the Centre for Bits & Atoms,, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Fablabs are community inventors' workshops where new products can be built by both businesses and individuals.

Source: http://


Olivier Schulbaum Platoniq


Olivier is Social Entrepreneur and Co- founder of Platoniq, an organization of cultural producers and software developers and vice president of the Fundación Fuentes Abiertas. From there, Olivier co-manages, a social network of crowdfundind (through money) and distributed collaboration (services, infrastructures, micro jobs and other resources) with the aim to invest drop-capital in projects whose objectives are of a social, cultural, scientific, educative, technological and ecological nature.

“Irrigating the commons.” Starting from the fact that we all have something to teach and something to learn, Platoniq began the Bank of Common Knowledge in 2006, a project that defies the traditional educational systems thanks to large doses of social innovation applied to knowledge exchanges. Bank of Common Knowledge follows a way to create methodologies that enhance co-creation, collective learning, cooperation amongst organizations and citizen participation. Platoniq created an online research platform born from the experiences with the Bank of Common Knowledge project. This platform gathers the organization’s research lines, texts about our methodologies and practical examples, such as games and significant projects created by other actors who are close to Platoniq's philosophy and practice. Basically, the research platform contents want to spread alternatives able to apply the working methods of the Internet and P2P to several environments such as education, economics and social innovation. Platoniq organizes markets of ideas and knowledge exchanges adapted to different (public or private) environments. Such is the case of the innovative experiences lived in secondary schools from Seville and in several NGOs from Yogyakarta (Indonesia); or Ideazoka, the market of ideas addressed to cooperatives produced in collaboration with the University of Mondragon (Basque Country) Platoniq presents its experiences in conferences about innovation, entrepreneurship, education and new technologies, and also in the most important digital culture festivals in the world. During his speech, Olivier Schulbaum will be encouraging the independent development of creative and innovative initiatives that contribute to the common good, free knowledge, and open code.



Eerik Wissenz


Eerik Wissenz studied mathematics at the University of Ottawa and the University of Carleton (Canada), but quickly took a long hiatus to spread the Solar Fire technology and learn ecological practices first hand from cultures around the world. Six months in Cuba were particularly interesting for studying post-peak-oil economics. Since 2006, he has voyaged to Mexico, Cuba, Spain, France, Finland and India developing and spreading the Solar Fire techniques by all the possible means. From 2008 to 2010 he was president of the “Projet du Feu Solaire”, a non-profit association in France founded with his wife Eva. In 2012, they founded Solar Fire Concentration Oy, based in Finland. Passionate writer, bilingual in French, he is writing articles, essays and books. Convinced by Open Source culture, Eerik is currently also working on an open book on sustainability, Decentralized Democracy, work in progress.

“Solar Fire: Let's make the solar revolution ourselves!” Solar Fire is a modular, high temperature, fixed focal point, solar concentration system designed for scalability at low-cost. The technology was developed primarily within and adapted to countries poor in dollars and rich in sunlight. Focal point can be vertical (steam production) or horizontal (bakery, ceramics, etc.). The technology is currently developed on three levels: 1. DIY in Open Source with free tools, 2. Local artisan production using jigs and some paying products to go faster, and 3. Industrial scale using CNC methods in closed source. Since the beginning, the Solar Fire has been spread by individuals with personal projects. Eerik and Eva both felt the necessity to give a platform to these actions to be more visible and understandable for people. The massive potential of affordable high-power solar thermal energy wasn't easy to understand at that time ... and we remember the days when "peak oil" was either a "fringe" or dismissed altogether (i.e. 2007)! So, they first created the website and a non-profit association in France (2007-2010). They offered workshops, designed constructions guides and put all the Solar Fire material online. They auto-financed everything and wanted to spread the solar fire as much and as fast as possible. In 2009 they built a 10m^2 vertical model at Tinytech Factories, in Rajkot, India, nearly twice as big as any other model ever built at the time. They also started to see the wide scope for industries to use and spread the technology by making it commercially available. In 2011 Eerik built a 32m^2 model with Tinytech and ran a steam engine. In 2012, he travelled to India to complete a 90m^2 model. Now, Solar Fire is developed with a social business model offering training and design services to Industry, with the aim of also creating a foundation to help co-raise financing for humanitarian solar projects around the world. At the moment, we can stay free and open source with all the DIY section, and are in the process of completing a 32 m² model, for full documentation and adapted to bamboo construction.



CHG 2012_english  

2012 Cohabitat Gathering Speakers

CHG 2012_english  

2012 Cohabitat Gathering Speakers