Archive for the 'Civic' 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…

JB

the Compendium becoming a reality - thanks to Calverts our printers

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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: http://compendiumcivic.eventbrite.com/

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

TA

Sense of Place Project wins high commendation at HCA Awards 2010

November 1, 2010

00:/ worked with a multidisciplinary team on the Sense of Place pilot project to test methodologies for mapping people’s sense of place in the Soho Road area of Birmingham as a driving force for a more bottom-up approach to masterplanning and area regeneration. The project recently won a high commendation at the Home & Communities Awards 2010. It was the only project to be highly commended within the category of ‘Leadership of Place’.

At the awards ceremony, Sarah Montague (Radio 4’s Today programme presenter), said: “The judges were particularly impressed with the project’s approach to engaging and empowering residents to make a difference to their lives and community.”

The community website http://www.sohofoundation.org.uk has been created to capture, harness and drive existing community initiative using the banners “Do (take action) Dream (about the future) Pledge (work together)”. A four minute film (made my 00:/) summarising the learning from the project can be seen by clicking here.

SH

(what) form follows (which) finance

September 28, 2010

00_Whatformfollowswhichfinance

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

market-making

use as service…”

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

JB

Launch of London Hackspace in Hoxton

August 3, 2010

London Hackspace had their space warming party on Sunday to celebrate their move into Cremer Street Business Centre so I went along to find out what was going on. As soon as you enter there’s the thrill of a workshop crossed with a mad inventors lab. I saw angle grinders next to a half repaired (or deconstructed?) bike, old school singer sewing machines, a workbench, an amazing open source 3D printer by makerbot industries that replicates itself and other tools and machines that i dont know the name of. Oh and a disco ball with flashing ligts. Hackspaces as i understand it, are places where like minded people can get together and tinker around, invent, make, play, exchange ideas and tips on many things. They describe it as a communal garden shed. I thought it might be limted to a few techy boffins playing with circuit boards and computer parts but that was just my limited interpretation of hackers. Actually the members of London hackspace don’t define hacker activity to a particular area. One described hacking to me as the act of taking, remaking anything – at London hackspace, this currently includes a planned knitting class (referred to as the first type of programming language), a lock picking sports club, bike repair shop, as well as the more techy activities of playing with circuit components and a tesla aerial (just because it made a cool noise when 4000volts was run through it).

There are quite a few precedences for hackspaces – I had previously come across the more well known ones such as the NYC Resistor in New York and c-base in Berlin – the Hackspace Foundation networks these spaces together. There’s clearly a real community feel to the crowd – faces being recognised from gatherings such as hackdays and dorkbot events.

Having decamped from a shared space with an archery range where they were located for a year, London Hackspace are hoping this move to their own space means that they can grow their membership but also have the room to really have fun. The monthly membership is £40 (less if you can’t afford that) it’s 24/7 access, a proudly anarchistic operation(there are no strict rules or preset definitions of what goes) and people act very much in a shared spirit evidenced by the donated tools and kit and their openess to talk to anyone that is curious in learning.

There was much conversation on the fact that spaces and places like this don’t exist easily, particularly in London because of the commercialisation of space. How do we value these activities that are beyond hobbies but not quite “work” – yet their value in creating a skill and knowledge base is invaluable – and primarily the self taught education of exploring by doing and making. This is the real classroom that should be present in all neighbourhoods – not only do spaces like this spread knowledge and other ways of learning, they are a class in civil society itself. Go down to check it out.

AF

Lets teach our kids to be entrepreneurs instead of lawyers…

July 26, 2010

Inspiring talk from Cameron Herold at TEDxEdmonton on the need to encourage kids to be entrepreneurs. Its witty with stories from his own childhood in the skills he picked up in the everyday – from collecting unused coathangers from neighbours to sell on to the drycleaners to recognising a demand market in the form of 70 year old pensioners playing bridge and selling them sodas. Aside from the amusing anecdotes – the key issues here are that our educations systems and societal expectations are all geared towards pushing kids into fitting into box a, b or c. Those that don’t fit are viewed as wrong, troublesome or in need of help. And the result is a society that is simplistic in its approach to innovation and work. If you don’t fit in a certain way in a few professions you sit outside of mainstream economics and highlighted as an issue or problem to be solved (centrally) using the resources that are being gathered by an increasingly fewer number, or perhaps artificially sustained through the public purse in a seperate accounting column that does not deal with the systemic issues, or create the space to recognise that there is an issue in the first place.  I’d recommend pairing up this video with this article from the Economist “In search of serendipity” a review of ” The Power of Pull” by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, which describes  theose connector people in business that make things happen. The article describes how the book presents a case for a different approach to business – that the platform technologies of today ie the internet, – challenge the top down approach to business that is perhaps still the standard in business schools. These are skills with nuances that cannot be translated solely into textbooks. As described in the article, “the “power of pull”, a term the authors define as “the ability to draw out people and resources as needed to address opportunities and challenges.” They propose a three-pronged pulling strategy. First, approach the right people (they call this “access”). Second, get the right people to approach you (attraction). Finally, use these relationships to do things better and faster (achievement).” Is our education system or even societal structures able to identify, understand and nurture these qualities as part of the story of enterprise and innovation?

Time to rethink the way we educate the next generation to be more prepared by reunderstanding how we value skills.

AF

00pen-source

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 (http://github.com/architecture00). 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.

NI

Rethinking Community | Do Dream Pledge

May 10, 2010

A draft of our current thinking on neighbourhood development powered by the community told through animation here. How might our neighbourhoods be if the ideas and resources were crowd sourced from by the community “do”-ing instead of an outside developer imposing a way of living and doing in cookie cutter fashion? How might a people be inspired to “dream” if the amazing stories within their communities were made known to them – to understand that it is ordinary people that can make change happen? In a time of low resources, how could a community come together and “pledge” to regenerate itself  through the power of the masses? We think this is a future worth shaping – one in which dreams of the community drive a sense of place from the ground up to rebuild our neighbourhoods in a way that empowers people and enables the community to be active citizens.

AF

PS. We’re trying this medium out following the success of our animation at the World Architecture Forum last year. Expect to see a few more 00:/ productions. In the meantime, hope you enjoy this…

#micro patronage

April 15, 2010

Came across micropatronage on twitter – interesting form of crowd funding but how does someone decide who to contribute to? Role of trust? This might work with an identifiable brand but how does a (well intentioned) stranger choose to donate to an unknown other stranger from the crowd. Doubt its success can only be based on “ cos i really liked the sound of this one” – can it? With street performers its different as there is immediate action of giving and satisfaction. like scratching an itch – but is this possible across the internet? Perhaps only with a one button purchase. Even then – the success would be in gathering micro amounts of money with no “movement” behind it to galvanise it – so can it scale?

AF

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?

AF