We are a collaborative thesis team, currently working on our Masters in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability programme, hosted by the Engineering Department of Blekinge Institute of Technology.

We are investigating:  how to enable citizens to co-create services which moves their community towards bioregional resilience.

This question stems from a belief that the current economic system, which uses the GDP as its measure of ‘progress’ externalizes much of what ‘truly matters’ in life and real costs of production.  This omission means society isn’t taking an honest account of of natural, human, social elements such as health and well being, clean air, time, leisure, biodiversity, etc. (Kennedy 1993; Galbraith 1996; Anielski 2001).  The current economic paradigm tends to undervalue and under-utilize human time and creativity (Drayton 2009) which limits the contributions and full potential of individuals and their communities. In addition, this economic approach supports the culture of over-consumption where ‘more is better’, a fallacy that contributes to environmental degradation.

“I believe that, in any society, as conviviality is reduced below a certain level, no amount of industrial productivity can effectively satisfy the needs it creates among society’s members.” (Ivan Illich “Tools for Conviviality” 1973)

This can be an opportunity and we can choose to either: A) Fix the old economy  OR B) Create a new economy.

Personally, the choice seems clear and I view this new economy as being a social, networked economy which respects the bioregion and earths carrying capacity which support it.  This is based upon the exchange of services that actually satisfy human needs and work towards values that we feel connected to.

The Old Economy and paradigm was based upon: cars, computers and objects

The New Economy will be based upon: regeneration, learning and health, which are based upon services, relationships, and social networks not products

Collaborative service = as an active welfare

Do not consider people as (passive) users and/or consumers, but as actors of the process: active subjects, capable to take decision and shape their lives.

EMUDE and Sustainable Everyday Action Research and Case Studies


A collaboration between 6 European design schools have been documenting day to day examples of social innovation for a project called Emude. Take a look at over 100 case studies collected for the Sustainable Everyday project.  They have published two great books packed full of real people innovating towards practical community led solutions. Download the books for free at Creative Communities and Collaborative Services.

The research asks the question “could the pursuit of more sustainable lifestyles also lead to better quality and more satifaction?”


Historical Backgroundof Collaboration in Communities

inspired by Ezio Manzini’s (leading Sustainable Everyday reserarch) talk on ‘Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability’ and John Thackara conversation and his information rich blog Doors of Perception

  • China, 400 B.C – Lao Tzu writing to Tao Te Ching

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.    Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”

  • Depression-era Agriculture Extension Services

Alabama has a great example of  focusing on “Extension work” in the 1920’s and 30’s. In this era  it was set up for innovative research from the state’s expanding land-grant university system in conjunction with emerging Industrial Age technology to improve the working conditions of the state’s farmers and homemakers.

  • The Cooperative Extension Service (Extension Service of the USDA)

This alternative education program from the United States created to enable people to use research to improve daily lives. Some funding comes from the state towards land-grant universities.  Much of the programs focus on agriculture and food, home and family, the environment, community economic development, and youth and 4-H.

  • Worker Correspondents scheme in revolutionary Russia

organised by the Bolsheviks espoused cooperation and made it a priority to collect information about issues of daily importance often related to work. Leon Trotsky wrote about this in “The Worker Correspondent and its Cultural Role”. Today you can still find  courses on how to be a worker-correspondent are run by Marxist organisations.

“Give people tools that guarantee their right to work with independent efficiency”

Illich describes Conviviality as “autonomous and creative intercourse among persons, and the intercourse of persons with their environment”.

  • Barn Raising – this 18-19th Century of providing construction labour was a common form of community organizing. Used specifically to mobilize members to build barns for one or more of its households. While this was more commonly seen in this period in North America region certain communities such the Amish and Mennonite have continued the practice.  The concept holds great potential in many different fields.  There was a major resurgence of the phenomenon in the 1970s.  Modern day examples can be seen in initiatives like City Repair, Oasis,  and Habitat for Humanity
  • City Repair: organizing group action that educates and inspires communities to transform the places where the live. City Repair facilitates artistic and ecologically-oriented placemaking through projects that honor the interconnection of human communities and the natural world. The many projects of City Repair have been accomplished by a mostly volunteer staff and thousands of volunteer citizen activists.

Place-Making via City Repair: multi-layered process within which citizens foster active, engaged relationships to the spaces which they inhabit, the landscapes of their lives, and shape those spaces in a way which creates a sense of communal stewardship and lived connection.  This is most often accomplished through a creative reclamation of public space: projects which take the form of benches on street corners where neighbors can sit, rest and talk with each other, kiosks on sidewalks where neighbors can post information about local events, needs and resources and street paintings in the public right-of-way that demonstrate to all who pass through that this is a Place: inhabited, known and loved by its residents.  In all instances, these projects are undertaken by local communities who come together to discuss what it is they want in their neighborhood – what elements are lacking in the public sphere and how the community can work together with the resources they have to create their own place.

organized group action that educates and inspires communities and individuals to creatively transform the places where they live.

  • Amartya Sen receives the Noble Peace Prize for Economics, Stockholm on Welfare Economics, 1998

“Expend the ‘capabilities’ of people to lead the kind of lives they value – and have a reason to value”

Revolutionary research on development economics

and social indicators is the concept of ‘capability‘ developed in his article “Equality of What.”

  • Elinor Ostram receives Nobel Peace Prize for Economics for her work on human nature of cooperation.

“We have to think through how to choose a meaningful life where we’re helping one another in ways that really help the Earth.”

She challenged the status quo discussions about the goverence of the commons equating to humans natural inclination towards corruption and misuse of common resources which justified centralisation of control and authority.  Over the years her studies of user managed natural resources have shown great evidence of complexsystems for decision-making, rules, and goverence to manage conflicts of interest, and she characterizes the rules that promote successful outcomes.

“Economic Governance: Organization of Cooperation”

A great article “Common(s) Sense Wins One” in YES magazine about her award

+ “8 principles to a Successful Commons”

Young Foundation has a number of great resources (Social Venturing)

A presentation by the Director Geoff Mulgan aptly speak about our necessary move towards Social Innovation


What are Collaborative Services?

  • participation + exchange + sharing at the neighbourhood scale
  • Collaborative Services re-enlivens community capital, bonds between people and the place-based locality and connection which all reinforce meaningful lives while contributing to well being of the whole.

  • Enhances localized economy by providing solutions, which allow people to meet their needs, while also reducing material and energy flows
  • not creating isolated communities removed from the world but rather optimizing online social technologies for both local and global networks of sharing and exchange: local means sharing and exchange of products and services  and grassroots design and global means sharing and exchange of information and experience
  • Increasingly distributed forms of economies and democratization of innovations.   In other words, the designing of appropriate products or services happens from within the community itself, as apposed to being placed on the community by institutions or businesses outside of it.(Charles Leadbeater 2006)
  • Blurring lines of consumer producer (Charles Leadbeater’s work)
  • Services over products thus less dependence on large centralised institutions and private companies
  • Moves away from financial flow analysis to valuing skills, capacities of people as contributors



4 Key Qualities:

Small/Local: Interwoven issues of scale, relationship and identity.

Open/connected: the rise of unprecedented forms of organization

Small/connected: in the network the small is not small; it is a node in the network

Local/open: In the sustainable society the local is open: the connected local.

Different Typologies:

  • self-help communities
  • mutual support circles

Some Examples:

ranging from

  • home restaurants
  • yard sharing for food production
  • rent a grandparent
  • bike share system
  • public space redesign
  • cultural spaces and hubs

Interviews and taste of insights (more to come soon!):

  • Suresh Fernando – and friends started Open Kollab where you can see his story here.

OpenKollab: is an incredible online sharing system to finding synergies, learn, collaborate for social justice and sustainable goals.

” to provide a solution to specific problems that prevent open collaboration from occuring. Our solution is a combination of software development, process design, and community building.”

At OpenKollab.com, you’ll be able to:

– Host a virtual meeting

– List an open project that you want help with

– Promote your meetings and projects to a community of collaboratively-minded people

– Relate your project to similar projects, and build coalitions

  • Jay Standish – project organizer and social designer has a blog Cultivating Resilient Culture. He spoke with us about several interesting projects he is engaged with or has worked with from Metacurrencies, Innovation Incubators, a Hub in Seattle, to a student initiated and run cafe called Flaming Eggplant.
  • John Manoocheri – urban designer, professor, and sustainability consultant has shared a great presentation and helped us think through sustainable design. His company Resource Vision.
  • John Thackara – author and producer of events for social and sustainable design has a stimulating blog packed full of projects and ideas Doors of Perception and professional website. He shared his experiences about process design and continues to provide ongoing support, inspiration, and insights from his feeding back learnings from various journeys, workshops, presentations, and book launches.

Doors of Perception:

Doors of Perception acts a bit like a film producer. We conceive and organise projects around the world, at a city-region scale, in which communities imagine sustainable futures – and take practical steps to realize them. In recent times Doors projects have included Dott07 a two-year programme a year of community design projects that explored what life in a sustainable region could be like – and how design can help us get there; Doors of Perception 9 a ten-day projects camp in New Delhi on food systems, City Eco Lab a festival about sustainable daily life visited by 85,000 people in the Rhone Alps region of France; and Four Days Halifax – a time-compressed mini-festival in Nova Scotia whose aim was to help that city get its hands muddy in a green economy.

Doors of Perception events are based on different aspects of daily life – food, water, energy, mobility, school, and economy; we then connect these activities with innovative new approaches that range from permaculture and spin-farming, to open money, alternative trade networks, dry toilets, sustainable urban drainage, alternate reality games, watershed planning, seed banks, de-motorisation, and VeloWalas.

  • Satu Miettinen – service and social designer shared with us her insights from South Africa, Namimbia, and Finland. She shed light on creative tourism for local empowerment. Info can be found regarding her publications and work on her website.
  • Edmund Colville – landscape architect is an ongoing collaborator who shares his experiences from Limina a new social enterprise created for transition spaces and events between the rural and urban, Transition Towns, Clear Village, among other processes.

Transition Town (or village/ city/ forest/ island)?

It all starts off when a small collection of motivated individuals within a community come together with a shared concern: how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change?

About Limina:

Limina is a group of individuals who share a passion for connecting the rural wild with urban culture. Between us we have a number of special venues – including a barge in central London and several amazing places in wild and rural Britain. We came together in 2009, hosted a launch event in Regents Park, and are planning an exciting series of future works, including events, consultancy, published learning manuals, public ceremony and workshops.

Clear Village:

to foster vibrant and sustainable communities by bringing togethere community stakeholder and global experts in a powerful process of co-creation.

A synopsis of the ebook beneath:

This book presents the emerging and increasingly important field of service design. Birgit Mager, Köln International School of Design and Service Design Network, Ezio Manzini, Politecnico di Milano, and Stefan Holmlid, University of Linköping, discuss how: – Design thinking and innovative methods work as tools for co-creating services and desirable value propositions. Service design is a tool for designing a more sustainable society. Interaction design offers us insight into creating more user-oriented services. Design practitioners Fran Samalionis from IDEO, Arne van Oosterom from DesignThinkers and Paul Thurston from thinkpublic share their service design thinking and the benefits of the service design process for both companies and for the public sector. Various service design case studies from different business areas and different cultural contexts are presented and described in detail, and this book opens the discussion on designers’ methods and approaches to developing services.

A passionate and compelling TED speech about redesigning our cities she introduces our requisite direction to Sitopian city planning.

Her description of Sitopia‘s:

a made-up word, from the Greek sitos, meaning food, and topos, place. So it means ‘food-place’, as opposed to utopia (‘good place’, or ‘no place’) a term used since Plato to describe an ideal – and therefore unattainable – community. Utopianism is the nearest thing we have to a cross-disciplinary tradition of thought about the problem of dwelling. The trouble is that it’s not a realistic approach, because it aims at perfection. That’s why I’m proposing sitopia as a practical alternative. The world is already shaped by food, so we may as well start using food to shape the world more positively.

Garden City

  • Charles Landry –  author, public speaker, and an authority on creativity and its uses and how city futures are shaped by paying attention to the culture of a place. His recent book The Art of City Making (September 2006).  It answers the questions how can cities be more “creative for the world” so that the energies of individuals and companies can be brought into alignment with their global responsibilities. This builds on his original ideas in his acclaimed book The Creative City: A Toolkit for urban innovators. Together with co-author Phil Wood he has now also published The Intercultural City (2007).

We spoke with Charles about great examples of creative cities moving towards sustainability such as Freiburg, Germany. In the face of constrained municipal thinking Charles demands, “What would be the cost of not doing this?”. In working together in intercultural cities he suggests the focus should be on the project not on the aspects of being intercultural itself, “What is the common purpose? What can we do together?”.

  • Phil Araneau (from 350.org campaign) now developing the’Get to Work’ campaign.

Through sharing our  International Climate Action for 350 campaign in Sweden where we played out the human graph with Bill McKibbon he put us in touch with one of the 350 campaign organizer, Phil Araneau.  Phil took the time to explain his principles and trends in mobilizing community action for a common purpose and strategic targets.

  • John Mundy from Marjora Carter Group a green economic development consulting firms. We spoke about their work as a catalyst for change in various communities in United States and their plan to import what has worked with Sustainable South Bronx to the rest of the country. We touched on key success points for communities to reach their potential through creating green jobs, supporting healthy sustainable development and fostering quality of life.

Majora Carter Group: uses the green economy and green economic tools to unlock the potential of every place – urban, rural and everywhere in between.

Marjora says “When we allow or encourage our economic practices to tax the environment, we inadvertently tax people too – and that ends up costing all of us a lot of money.”

Sustainable South Bronx: Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) is a community organization dedicated to Environmental Justice solutions through innovative, economically sustainable projects that are informed by community needs. In 2001, SSBx was created to address policy and planning issues like land use, energy, transportation, water, waste, education, and, most recently, design and manufacturing.

  • Laura MacKay spoke with us from Rwanda about her experience in Kigali with Cooperatives. She has been working with her husband Mitch for several months to document and illuminate social enterprises.  She had great insights and introduced us to a cultural tradition in Rwanda – ‘Ubudehe’ the tradition of mutual assistance. This concept has recently been resurrected by the government to mobilize citizens for a collective day of action to rebuild the country after the genocide. Once a month citizens clean sidewalks and volunteer for their country – to solve problems of the people, by the people, for the people! Very inspiring Thanks! Building Bridges is a group “bridging Canadians’ and Rwandans’ efforts to restore humanity through community action”

Treadlight Productions Story:

Upon Laura’s graduation, harnessing the power of visuals to communicate compelling stories, she drew upon past experience to co-found a film production company called Treadlight Media, engaging clients like the Hollyhock Leadership Institute, the Shambhala Institute and the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition to make short films about their sustainability innovations.

  • Sailas Lusias spoke with us from Zimbabwe where he lives and work at Kufunda Learning Village. Kufunda started as a result of realizing that ‘all we need is present”.  While he mentioned that due to urbanization and growing use of monetary for transactions valuing social capital has sadly dropped significantly the concept of working together called Mushandirapamwe in the local Shona language has been experiencing a great revival.  This rebirth is spurring people to help each other in many aspects and doings knowing that it is not only for them but everyone, such as growing food not just for their family but giving away their surplus to help those who might need it.

Kufunda Village:

Is a resource for the World! An inspired community on the outskirts of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Their mission is to inspire the co-creation of strong life affirming communities in Zimbabwe and beyond by demonstrating and sharing the necessary ideas, skills and practices that are required for community sustainability and nourishment.

The centre runs activities, programs, and workshops ranging from permaculture design and practice to dialogue such as Art of Hosting, preschool, eco-building, bicycle project for orphans.

  • Mark Anielski spoke with us from Edmonton, Canada about Genuine Wealth and Well Being. Specifically he gave insightful examples about communities he has worked with in the United States and Canada who are leading the way of integrating more holistic indicators that reflect happiness instead of puerly economic growth.

Mark is the author of “Economics of Happiness” and has a personal website Anielski Management – “helping to build communities of well-being”.

  • Rob Hopkins founder of the Transition Town movement and author of Transition Handbook. We spoke with Rob and he helped fill a gap for systematic process for local creativity and self-organizing which leading to regional shifts towards sustainability. He emphasize the importance of having an iterative and open-source model which feeds learning and stumbling blocks back into the model as much as successes.

What exactly is a Transition Town?

A Transition Initiative (which could be a town, village, university or island etc) is a community-led response to the pressures of climate change, fossil fuel depletion and increasingly, economic contraction. There are thousands of initiatives around the world starting their journey to answer this crucial question:

“for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly rebuild resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil and economic contraction) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”

Survey: Top Ingredients

Imagining Enabling Platforms:

  • Assets (What we have?)
  • Ideas (Where we’re going?)
  • Abilities (What skills and knowledge do we have?)
  • Attitude (What do we believe?)
  • Responsibility (What will we commit to?)
  • Action (What will do today and tomorrow?)

Tools and Processes Examples:

  • Scenario Building Story Board
  • Community Mapping
  • Activity Cards
  • Scenario Building Strategic decision making
  • Foresight planning

Thesis Process and Post It Fun


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