Archive for the 'Institutions' 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.


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.


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…


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.


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…

00:/ Changing Practice_ RIBA Research Symposium 2009

September 30, 2009

Last Thursday Indy spoke at the RIBA Research Symposium 2009 Changing Practice, along with an interdisciplinary mix of practitioners, theoreticians and researchers including Anne Lacaton, Keith Bradley, Stephen Hill, Liza Fior and Jonathan Charley. The symposium aimed to provide a context to present the challenges and opportunities to architectural practice – to look at and question the ways in which we operate. Amongst the talks there were some inspiring examples of how architects have strategically challenged the status quo, along with passionate rallying calls for us all to take responsibility for changing the profession.

It will be well worth downloading the papers from the RIBA Research website when they become available.

And Now What?

August 31, 2009

And Now What @ Hub Kings Cross

00:/ in partnership with The Architecture Foundation organised the And Now What? series of debates as part of an ongoing debate that seeks to share and evaluate propositions to rethink spatial practice in a radically changing context. Over three invited sessions, key figures debated future scenarios for a changing landscape and explore plausible solutions in housing, urban regeneration and economic development.

“Prediction 1
: The CBI expects that before the next election, 3.25 million people might be out of a job.

Prediction 2: The architect and Harvard academic Paul Nakazawa, predicts that one third of all architects might be amongst those unemployed.

Figures like this show how, as our cities, towns and neighbourhoods are affected by the current crisis, all of us practicing in the built environment professions face a fundamental challenge. But this is a challenge to more than our jobs – all the parameters of built environment projects as we knew them are affected.

No longer can we rely on predictable patterns of behaviour in daily practice and on the professional certainties of the past decades. Instead we need to recognise how the very settings of practice may change, from entrepreneurial models and funding mechanisms to client relations and questions of professional ethics. Now that the speculative housing boom is over, where should architects focus their skills? What new questions are our clients asking, and do we have the right expertise to respond? Was our role in the boom entirely innocent, and what do we want to do differently next time around?

There is an urgent need for public discussion to reflect on what this means: for the way we work, for the future of spatial practice and for how cities can develop in the post-boom era. Most of all, we need to identify and how this can be an opportunity for positive change: what viable models for urban regeneration in a beyond the consumption economy? How can this generate a more inclusive urban economy? What perspectives do we see for low-carbon growth, and how can architecture and planning contribute more forcefully to this? Without the cross-subsidy from housing and retail, how do we strengthen the urban commons of public realm and social infrastructure?”

(Source:Architecture Foundation website)

An edited video is available on the AF website. And now what do you think?


Welcome to the age of Civic Capitalism [The new Darlings]

March 22, 2009

The following article in the FT gives hope – and finally direction – that a new form of capitalism can be born – that works with the principles of everyday democracy – rather than over empowering the “levering few” to create a pusedo autocracy [where leadership defeats accountability]

Don’t get me wrong the current mutual model has its problems – one of the most significant is the ability to socially innovate as the need for accountability often defeats leadership/entrepreneurship.  This to me presents the interesting organisation challenge – in the mutual model – a need to combine everyday legitimacy [in scale] with leadership to deliver the sustainable innovation.

Article attached.

Darling to give backing to mutual model

By George Parker and Jim Pickard

Published: March 20 2009 20:03 | Last updated: March 20 2009 20:03

Alistair Darling will next month signal strong support for mutual savings banks and building societies when he sets out a white paper on strengthening Britain’s financial system.

The chancellor has spoken warmly about the mutual model, embodied in institutions such as Nationwide, which tend to run a less risky business model, based on savings and lending. The Treasury is assessing potential legal or regulatory changes to help mutuals ahead of the white paper.

“That would include mutuals and credit unions. Having institutions which fund themselves using different models is good from the point of view of financial stability.”

Although Mr Darling accepts that some mutuals can be run just as badly as banks such as Northern Rock, he believes they are less likely to use “extreme” funding models or to depend so heavily on wholesale money markets. Building societies have only 20 per cent of the mortgage market, down from 59 per cent before the wave of demutualisations sparked by the Building Societies Act of 1986.

Since then, the number of mutuals has fallen from 110 to 55 – a fraction of the 1,700 that existed in 1900.

Occasionally there have been conversions in the other direction, such as four years ago when Bristol & West was bought from Bank of Ireland by Britannia. Mr Darling is under pressure from within the Labour party to revive the sector. Michael Stephenson, general secretary of the Co-operative party – which numbers 29 Labour MPs among its members – said there was a “unique” opportunity to remutualise parts of the banking industry.

He said the mutual model was the obvious way forward for Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley. The two institutions could be consolidated into a single new building society which would be owned by its members, he said. Alternatively existing mutuals could be given the right of first refusal when the pair were sold.

This idea has won the backing of the influential Compass group of left-leaning MPs, which wants to go further and mutualise other high street banks.

In theory the process would be easy, given that a new building society needs only £1m of funds and at least 10 members. But there could be a large cost – to either the government or members – in setting up a new entity, especially if it has large debts.

Treasury officials have signalled that Mr Darling would prefer to sell Northern Rock back into the private sector at some point for a profit.

Supporters of the mutual model admit that it is not perfect. Four of the weaker brands have been bought by stronger rivals in the past year to prevent their collapse. It has emerged that Dunfermline, Scotland’s biggest building society, is in effect up for sale after becoming loss-making.

But a spokeswoman for the Building Societies Association said that the time was ripe for an expansion of the sector, given that its model tended to lead to cheaper borrowing rates. “Customers are fed up with the plc banking model, this is a good time for alternative models.”

the software of…sharing software

March 16, 2009

For some time now I have been thinking about the issue of new social techs that allow us to share everyday resources more efficiently – Streetcar being an excellent example: using existing technologies it allows users to approach the logic of Just-In-Time delivery for such a basic parameter of life as private transport, underpinning a much more efficient use of a resource that for most people sits dormant most of the time: the car.

In industry, dormant capital goods represent waste. The same logic applies for many resources, be they consumer goods or business resources, which are merely means to an end – in this case mobility. There are so many examples across many sectors, from books (an obvious one) and gardening / DIY tools (or toys) to office desk space and underprogrammed community halls. If we succeed to intensify their use, we achieve higher living standards whilst minimising waste and therefore, environmental impact. This requires social innovation – the use of social techs to make this possible. The roll-out of public libraries (or public baths, for that matter) in the 19th Century is a good example – a social innovation (clearly not a technical one) which built new institutions in working-class neighbourhoods to improve quality of life. They answered a need in their time by taking an existing concept and creating an organisational and physical infrastructure to create intensified use, enriching the public realm.

I thought that, like Streetcar, the urban bicycle renting schemes of Paris and Barcelona were an excellent example – a new sharing software that combines available technologies to answer a contemporary need, enriching the public realm and laying the basis for a new sharing ethic in our cities, which itself could nurture social capital and underpin a new development cycle in our social-economy, creating new civic institutions …

Yes. But. See last months report on Paris here

They get nicked. Or trashed. Or dumped. Or ‘exported’. The Curse of the Free Rider is everywhere. A New Commons depleted.

So, we have created the institution and the social tech but not found ways to validate and reinforce the collective behaviour norms required to sustain it. The very software of this sharing software failed – (it’s like pissing in the pool, really).

So now what?