Archive for the '00_Research' Category

The Compendium for the Civic Economy: a quick genealogy…

May 9, 2011

So the Compendium for the Civic Economy is now at the printers and will be launched on Thursday with NESTA and Cabe – for visual evidence of the printing process, see pictures below (taken last week).

We’re in countdown mode, but thought it’d be good to tell a bit about the genealogy of this book. We started talking about this idea here in the office in late 2009 / early 2010. On the one hand we realised that projects we had been involved with over the past few years, like Demos’ Urban Beach in Bristol and the Hub, all suggested a way of practicing spatial interventions which did not fit comfortably with the dominant urban policy narrative of the time – but which opened up powerful possibilities, experiences and conversations. On the other hand we recognised the deep crisis of purpose in the world of regeneration and place-making – a crisis that had become glaringly obvious in the wake of the financial crash, but that of course had been latent for a while, the inevitable result of the woefully thin value often created in the real-estate driven ‘regeneration’ projects of the past decade.

So we wanted to make manifest a wider range of initiatives, projects and ventures that collectively showed a glimpse of the way forward.

This was all about operating under a different set of parameters. After the crash, the absence of ‘big public’ or ‘big private’ funding made ‘more of the same’ classic physical infrastructure-driven projects not just pointless but actually pretty much impossible to achieve. So what were instead the projects that were relevant, viable, purposeful to pursue? We had organised an early series of debates about this together with the Architecture Foundation, and it also became the question that led to our book project and its 25 detailed case studies. The case studies range from citizen-built edible public spaces and member-led supermarkets to new communities of practice for social entrepreneurs, and from locally funded superfast broadband and self-commissioned housing to peer-to-peer ride sharing websites. What the book shows is how these are based on the initiatives of an increasingly wide range of civic-minded pioneers in the private, public and social enterprise sector, and that crucially they are built on local strengths – whether existing or latent social networks, people’s skills and aspirations, or dormant physical assets.

In the office, we sometimes spoke about this project as a ‘critical coffee-table’ publication – because we realised it needed to be both highly illustrated and analytical. After all, we wanted to show, on the one hand, the tangible quality of the projects that we had researched, and on the other hand reflect on what is required to create the fertile ground for this economy to flourish and grow. Therefore we aimed our book to help build an evidence base of existing projects, and to give pointers to the kind of policies, attitudes, prototyping projects and conversations that local leaders (whether in Local Authorities or otherwise) now need to engage with if they are genuinely going to unleash trajectories to build new shared wealth.

The result? It’s in print, see below, and to be launched on Thursday. And more importantly, it is part of an ongoing conversation – we build on the research and / or practice of a wide range of people like Robin Murray, Tessy Britton, Umair Haque and organisations like Space Makers or those collected in the Spatial Agency project – to name just a few. Our book is part of a discourse that itself is flourishing and becoming ever more powerful – in sum: to be continued…


the Compendium becoming a reality - thanks to Calverts our printers


Compendium for the Civic Economy: Official Launch 12 May 2011

May 4, 2011

Finally, after more than a year of blood, sweat and tears (and just a pinch of hard work), 00:/ will be launching its newest publication; Compendium for the Civic Economy – a book that showcases 100 existing civic initiatives that are transforming local economies and places in the UK and abroad. The official launch is scheduled for 12 May 2011 at 8.45-10.30 AM and will be hosted by NESTA at 1 Plough Place, EC4A 1DE, London.

Speakers include Pam Warhurst (Incredible Edible Todmorden), Sam Coniff (Livity) and our own Indy Johar.

To register for the FREE event, please visit:

From 12 May, the book will be freely available online at – please check the website and/or our twitter profile @civic_economy for updates.


(what) form follows (which) finance

September 28, 2010


I wrote this short provocation piece about changing urban project finance for an Academy of Urbanism roundtable organised last week with the Prince’s Foundation. It is also inspired by the project we are building with CABE and NESTA: a Compendium on the Civic Economy.

“It is a truism that in the rapidly changing economic, social and policy context, we will require a different set of mechanisms and pathways to unlock the investment streams required to re-think places. And if it is still true that ‘form follows finance’, this inevitably implies a different place-making mode. The financial logic underlying the Urban Renaissance has collapsed – so what will replace it?

The answer to this question is a contested terrain. We can, however, identify multiple emergent practices, some of which have been with us for some time now whereas others are more incipient. It is possible to outline some of the characteristic dynamics of these new practices. In particular we suggest three main parameters of change:

crowdsourcing fundng


use as service…”

[see 00_Whatformfollowswhichfinance for the rest of the 2 pager]


NESTA Local Knowledge : A case study on innovative places

July 22, 2010

00:/ were selected and commissioned to contribute to NESTA’s Local Knowledge report collection of essays on Innovative Places. Our case study explores The Hub King’s Cross, a workspace, members club and business incubator. It is centred around a series of flexible spaces for individual work, meetings and events, and is unusual in many ways such as its intensity of utilisation. Using qualitative interviews and roundtables with key individuals involved, we analysed The Hub’s underlying place-making strategy which seeks to create fertile conditions for different types of innovation. The analysis emphasises the importance of thinking both about physical parameters and about social and organisational tactics in order to succeed at fostering a different culture of daily behaviour amongst the users.

This is what we call place making for innovation – a necessity for 21st century entrepreneurialism. Have a read – see what you think…


WORK NOW series : office city city office

July 13, 2010

A diagram we produced adapted from an original by DEGW showing the shifting nature of the work environment over the last 60 yrs.Moving from an exclusive form of “Office as the City” through to a semi public figurehead organisation into the most recent typology as represented by The Hub model of a shared and inter sectorial “Office as City” approach.


WORK NOW Series : The Strategy Theatre

June 24, 2010

This is the first in a series of our propositions for the future of work called Work Now, based on our various learning to date on collaborative & innovative workspaces and progressive institutions. We’ve uploaded this proposition for the Strategy Theatre onto slideshare– but in brief, the Strategy Theatre is a newsroom + think tank + augmentive environment + rapid response unit.

We understand that Agile Responsiveness and Smart Anticipation are critical functions of corporate institutions. Increasingly organisations must engage in unplanned systemic crisis with immediate mastery of the scenario. The Strategy Theatre is a new sort of place & function designed to rapidly scope, visualise and model emerging crisis, and support deployment mastery.

We hope you enjoy.



May 27, 2010

00:/ is hard at work on a new Web2.0 platform for open-source urban planning… ‘EDIT’ (Everybody Doing It Together) will be a web-app offering members of the public the opportunity to propose interventions and improvements to their local neighbourhoods, and provide them with the tools to realise those proposals through collaboration and sharing of resources. In many ways EDIT is a mash-up between Kickstarter, The School of Everything, and FixMyStreet… (just three examples of the plethora of collaborative, enabling, and engagement-based tools the internet is throwing up within the framework of our emerging civic economy).

At its heart, EDIT will be about empowerment – subverting the traditional idea that we are powerless to affect the public realm, and must rely entirely on local authorities to maintain and improve our neighbourhoods. Moreover EDIT will attempt to bridge the gap between surplus capacity within the community and aspirations for real action amongst community activists. We hope that EDIT will eventually provide an outlet for local councils to engage with the dreams and proposals of local people, and furthermore offer them the opportunity to release public funds and support to community action groups to enable positive change, thereby reducing their own resource burdens.

We are currently hard at work putting together a first (alpha) version of the software, and hope to have a beta ready for release over the coming months. The platform is being built on the excellent Cappuccino framework. In addition to working through use-cases, various iterations of interface and the like, we have also been doing some coding from ground up – and feel it is in the spirit of the very civic economy we hope to service to release (at least some!) snippets from time to time…

We have launched an official 00:/ github account ( Github is an amazing resource allowing software developers to share code and collaborate in evolving their output – it is founded on relatively simple principles of versioning (git repositories specifically), but through its communication potential and some very clever visualizations facilitates an incredibly efficient workflow. We will hopefully be using our account as a platform for sharing all sorts of software developments in future (…along with edit we have ideas about a version of github’s own network graph, for use as a journey catalogue through strategic decision making and project development… about which more later)!

It may still be early days, but watch this space.


00:/ at World Architecture Festival

November 11, 2009

00:/ were invited to take part in the Less Does More exhibition at the World Architecture Festival last week and presented this animation on the Right to Build project accompanied by the following manifesto:

Less does more

We are in a period of systemic change – the current crisis, like that of the 1930s, is simply the crystallisation of an ongoing transition between an old world and a new one. Symptoms of this transition which may be heralded by a new age of austerity, include the threat of peak oil, the need to mitigate our carbon emissions, the wholesale contraction of consumer credit, and the massive pressure for the reduction of public spending.

This moment creates a fundamental choice for our civilisation – a choice to build a world where were we unpick the work of a century through demolishing the middle classes and radically polarising society between the few have and many have-nots or to use this scarcity of resource as the catalyst to create a new foundation to our economy. The first choice leads us to a particular place where democracy itself is threatened and we begin a great socio-economic unwinding. The alternative choice is routed in a more sophisticated formulation of capitalism based upon use value and the accounting of externalities; a new, sharing economy. We are already seeing the seeds of such a future in social innovations from car clubs to co-working environments where we share the cost and opportunity afforded by an asset, or in films such The Age of Stupid which are funded via crowd sourcing with both the investment and return being shared, or institutions such as the HUB built via micro bonds, or examples like community co-build housing in Tübingen-Südstadt. Together these and hundreds, even thousands, of other small scale civil ventures are starting to build a viable alternative to the less is less for the majority and slowly offering a real alternative for our cities, our notion of possession, and our collective being.

This nascent future has fundamental repercussions for place-shapers and place makers. These new interventions suggest a new taxonomy of architecture where the propositional skills of change-making in a city are no longer limited to creating buildings but to new ways of creating shared places as genuinely shared assets through their design as open platforms working across communities, markets, institutions, & environments.

In addition, Indy took part in a seminar on Thursday morning with Cezary Bednarski & Roger Zogolovitch to “Examine how a particular architectural type (housing) fits within, takes advantage of and serves a particular social context, in both developing and developed worlds.

  • Exploring how a radically rethink of approach to the typology of housing can create asset revenue and social value
  • Tapping the social, economic and physical resources of a particular place
  • Designing economic security and benefit into the building”

Do you still think we’re as safe as houses? Do you think there is a future in our right to build as an alternative way of building our homes and communities?


Retrofit for the future : 00 wins contract for low carbon social housing refit

October 1, 2009

00:/ was recently awarded a contract with the Technology Standards Board as part of the £3.5m Retrofit for the Future competition.

Iain Gray Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board said:

“Housing in the UK accounts for 27% of carbon emissions and more than 60% of the houses that we will be living in by 2050 have already been built. To meet the UK’s target of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, we must dramatically improve the performance of our existing housing stock.

“The social housing sector includes over 4.5m homes and the challenge is to come up with innovative and well tested solutions so that when these buildings are refurbished, they are done so in a sustainable manner that is sure to make significant cuts in carbon emissions. ”

“This is an opportunity to ‘kick-start’ the social housing retrofit market by connecting the organisations that will be refitting housing, such as social landlords and local councils, with innovative and capable suppliers so that together they can develop a range of high performance and cost effective solutions.”


NESTA weBank event | social lending platforms

January 23, 2009

I went to this event on wednesday evening at NESTA, part of a series called weBank to explore whether people can replace institutions.

Some interesting learning about micro credit unions called ROSCA’s – an historic form of micro finance from India (still in practice I understand) “Rotating Savings and Credit Association or ROSCA is a group of individuals who agree to meet for a defined period of time in order to save and borrow together. “ROSCAs are the poor man’s bank, where money is not idle for long but changes hands rapidly, satisfying both consumption and production needs.” [source:wikipedia]

Three P2P finance models were presented : Kubera Money, Zopa and Midpoint & Transfer. Each, in their own ways, are predicated on cutting out the middleman (ie the banks – also termed as Disintermediation) and enabling direct lending and borrowing by harnessing the internet. None of these models call themselves banks, instead using terms such as “social lending platform” and “social finance models”. The interesting thing about these models is that other than cutting out the “unreasonable”, “unnecessary”, “opaque” fees incurred by banks is the elements of fiscal responsibility of the individual (ie what you choose to do with your money and what you area able to do with it) as well as the opportunities for community building. Models such as Zopa, Grameen Bank and Kiva ( show that these models work – though each have a particular context.

There is a challenge to be overcome in how these models might be applied as part of the “institutional revolution”  – an idea raised by a member of the panel, Umair Haque (Havas Media Lab). The models from India and Kenya rely heavily on trust networks and social rules which have a significant value in those cultures where the participants are not economically or socially mobile. Those models have unlocked the 95% unbanked individuals into the money market. The Zopa model is reliant on a different community “There is not a great deal of engagement within Zopa on a community or social level, as the primary aim is to save lenders and borrowers money by ‘cutting out the middleman’, not to create a community of lenders and borrowers.”

Another model that was mentioned was Caja Navarra which is not about P2P lending, but customer rights and is being called Civic Banking. When it first started, the bank had an agenda to invest responsibly, so customers knew their money was being invested into social projects. The next step was customers being able to vote on the amount of investment, then the amount as a ratio to the profit which was being earned by the bank to be invested in social projects. The current evolution includes customer rights on dictating the specific areas to which the money is directed (You Choose You Decide Programme).

What is the potential in creating/strengthening/seeding community using contextual versions of these models? In a country where a majority of the population is “banked” but where community is lacking, is it an inverted model of Kiva/Kubera where the use of an alternative form of lending can be used to enable community building?