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Posts in category 'Sustainability'

24 May 2012

Aljazeera’s The Stream on alternative currencies

drachma

Aljazeera’s The Stream reports on how people declare economic independence by establishing alternative currencies.

“People and businesses are establishing micro-currencies in the wake of the global financial crisis in order to take matters into their own hands. These small alternative forms of money are used as a way to promote local commerce and challenge the current economic system.

Critics, however, claim they are merely a gimmick. Others say it is a way to keep money within a local economic area while forming resilience against the volatility of the global system.

In this episode of The Stream we speak with Eric Garland (@EricGarland), Heloisa Primavera (@jelenabartermad) a sociologist in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Peter North, a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool.”

Watch episode (YouTube)

22 April 2012

Internet must be a web not for the consumer, but for the citizen

 

In an editorial, The Guardian argues for an open web:

“To protect the web’s founding principle is a matter of what Tim Berners-Lee would call citizen vigilance, of restraining by openness itself the continual pressure for a closed-down, privately owned cyberspace that is the inevitable product of those internet Cecil Rhodes who would like to fence in the riches of the virtual world. It must be a web not for the consumer, but for the citizen.”

Read editorial

18 April 2012

Brains, Behavior and Design

 

Brains, Behavior and Design is a group of IIT Institute of Design students appling findings from the fields of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics to the design process.

It is not clear to what extent the group is still active now, but the site is still alive.

The Brains, Behavior & Design Group is dedicated to exploring how insights from the fields of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics can be used to design better products, services, experiences, and business strategies.

The group is composed of interaction designers, design researchers and design strategists who each came to the field with a range of backgrounds (HCI, advertising, education, finance). We intersect in our two core beliefs that the better we understand people the better we can design for them, and this understanding gains value when it’s transformed into actionable insights.

Niki Pfarr (who is now at The Artefact Group and was featured on this blog earlier today) was one of the members.

18 April 2012

Applying behavioral economics and cognitive psychology to the design process

behaviorchange

Artefact is, like Experientia, a UX design consultancy that is strongly inspired by cognitive and behavioral modeling, and uses all kinds of inputs from cognitive and social science to enrich their design work:

“At Artefact, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the fact that regardless of the type of design challenge we work on, all of the decisions we make on a given project have the potential to influence human behavior – whether we intended them to or not.

As we outlined in our 21st Century Design paper, the toolkit of the modern designer is rapidly expanding. Design practice is maturing, and what was once a focus on aesthetics and usability is broadening to incorporate interdisciplinary knowledge from a variety of fields like4 behavioral economics and cognitive psychology. These disciplines shed light on the factors that impact human decision-making and motivate our behaviors.

Knowledge from these fields can help us better understand why people behave the way they do, help us design to reinforce or change that behavior, and help us make more informed predictions about how people will behave when faced with new decisions in the future.”

Artefact researcher Nikki Pfarr is now exploring the topic in more depth with a video that introduces some of the principles and tips coming from the fields of behavioral economics and human-centered design. We agree with her that these topics could allow us to better understand human behavior, and to design products and services that facilitate better decision-making.

Pfarr also wrote a short paper “Applying Behavioral Economics and Cognitive Psychology to the Design Process“ on the topic.

6 April 2012

Earth Institute publishes first ever World Happiness Report

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The first ever World Happiness Report has been made public and states that our best chance at a contented life is to pack up and move to Scandinavia, writes Wired UK.

Published by The Earth Institute at Columbia University and co-edited by its director, the report was commissioned for a United Nations conference on happiness.

The report collated data from several different happiness measurement exercises worldwide to create a “life evaluation score”, which took in not just wealth but also social factors such as political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption as well as personal criteria including good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and having a stable family life. The sources include the Gallup World Poll (GWP), the World Values Survey (WVS), the European Values Survey (EVS), and the European Social Survey (ESS).

After the figures were analysed, the report authors found that the “happiest countries in the world” are Denmark, Norway, Finland and Netherlands, where the average life evaluation score is 7.6 on a 0-to-10 scale. The least happy countries are Togo, Benin, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone with average life evaluation scores of just 3.4.

- Read article (Wired UK)
- Read press release (Earth Institute)
- Download report

6 April 2012

Don Tapscott: The internet’s real killer app is saving the planet

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All our global institutions — from the United Nations to the World Trade Organization to the International Monetary Fund to the G20 to the G8 — are broken, according to Don Tapscott, the best-selling author of Macrowikinomics.

In an 8 minute video interview on TechCrunch – recorded last week at The Economist‘s Innovation event in Berkeley – he outlined how we can rebuild these global institutions in the digital 21st century.

We need to rebuild our institutions around open source technology, wikis, social media and all the other distributed models that are shaping our networked world, says Tapscott, who has brought together a number of other leading thinkers – Jonathan Zittrain from Harvard and writers Parag Khanna and Richard Florida, for example – to participate in this ambitious project to reinvent the planet in our digital century.

It sounds highly if not over-ambitious.

Watch video

4 April 2012

Experientia working towards ECOFAMILIES

ecofamilies.original

Experientia® is partnering with the Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB) of Nice, France and a series of other agencies on Ecofamilies, a project aimed at the enhancement and promotion of eco-responsible behaviours in family homes.

Starting from March 2012, and continuing until June, co-design workshops are being conducted with 30 volunteer families, in a participatory approach which aims to discover the real behaviours, attitudes and needs of families when it comes to energy consumption.

The final goal of the project is to produce an innovative technological solution which will allow families, parents and children alike, to have a concrete understanding of their energy consumption, and the choices that are available to reduce it, with personalised tips and detailed, useful information on household energy use.

Experientia® is a consultant on the project, as part of a growing profile in the field of behavioural change for sustainability.

In the past three years, Experientia® has developed a framework for sustainable behavioural change.

Experientia’s other sustainability focused projects include developing an environmental road map for Kortrijk Xpo in Belgium to become the most environmentally sustainable trade fair complex in Europe; and Low2No, where they are focusing on behavioural change, service design and an advanced smart metering device, to help people achieve more sustainable lifestyles.

4 April 2012

On Facebook, some friendly energy rivalry

opower-blog480

Opower [is a company] that blends behavioral science and data analysis to find ways to help utilities get their customers to use less electricity.

[Their] thinking is that it’s not so much factual information that motivates behavioral change — knowing that smoking is bad for you, or that most electricity generation emits heat-trapping carbon dioxide – but the way that such information plays off social relationships and creates peer pressure. Now the company is harnessing social media to further that kind of psychological connection as well.

Teaming with Facebook, energy conservation advocates and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, Opower released a new app on Tuesday that will allow interested parties in 20 million households served by 16 utilities to post their energy use on their Facebook pages and invite friends to do so as well. The option is available from participating utilities in California, New York and points in between.

Read article

21 March 2012

Helsinki Street Eats: a book about everyday food

helsinkifood

Helsinki Street Eats: a book about everyday food
By Bryan Boyer and Dan Hill, with contributions from Ville Tikka, Nuppu Gävert, Tea Tonnov, and Kaarle Hurtig.
Sitra / Low2No

Street food describes systems of everyday life. In its sheer everydayness we discover attitudes to public space, cultural diversity, health, regulation and governance, our habits and rituals, logistics and waste, and more.

It can be an integral part of our public life, our civic spaces, our streets, our neighbourhoods. Street food can help us articulate our own culture, as well as enriching it by absorbing diverse influences. And it can enable innovation at an accelerated pace by offering a lower-risk environement for experimentation.

Street food can do all of these things, but it doesn’t necessarily.

This book is an attempt to unpack what’s working and what isn’t in Helsinki, and sketch out some trajectories as to where it could go next.

We see that the history of Helsinki’s street food is inextricably tied to food in Finland in general, and so it is caught up in deep currents of regulation, politics, commerce, national identity and culture. As unlikely as it may seem, when viewed from this historical and cultural perspective, street food might be a powerful force for shaping everyday life. It also presents an economic opportunity.

The Low2No project is interested in understanding these systems of everyday life, in order to assess how best to support, influence, and invest into them to enable a greater capacity for sustainable well-being. We’re interested in enabling food entrepreneurship with an eye towards diversity, quality, and sustainability – this short book is our first step towards our next projects in this space. Take a bite – download a PDF or order a print-on-demand copy – and get in touch if you want more.

See also: Bryan Boyer’s blog post on the book

5 March 2012

Low2No featured in ARUP Design Yearbook 2011

low2no_with

The Design Yearbook 2011 of ARUP — the global firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists that Experientia collaborated with on the Low2No project in Helsinki — is a gorgeous overview of the power of (sustainable) design in the firm’s recent work.

Pages 70-71 of the book (38 in the pdf download) feature the Low2No project, which is now called Airut. The striking visual is by Lamosca.

Below is the text that accompanies it:

Leading by example

Our approach to the design of the Helsinki’s first carbon-neutral district – formerly known as the Low2No project – encourages residents to make more informed choices about energy, transport, food and consumer goods, with the goal or reducing energy demands in the district by more than 40% compared with the Finnish average.

We are pioneering a new model of urban design on this 22,000 m2-mixed-use project that demonstrates how design can empower people to live a healthier, creative and more sustainable lifestyle. We are showing how every lifestyle choice has an impact upon their carbon and ecological footprints.

We have undertaken a broader carbon assessment that takes into consideration the site’s likely total consumption of carbon. This enabled our client to chart an achievable and replicable course from the low-carbon norms of Finnish society to a fully decarbonised model.

More than 15% of the project’s electricity will be sourced from photovoltaic sources and heat from a biomass heat network. The seven-storey office is a pioneering all-timber building and the carbon impact of in situ concrete will be cut by 20% compared to conventional specifications.

Download ARUP Design Yearbook 2011

5 March 2012

Book: The Transition Companion

transitioncompanion

The Transition Companion: making your community more resilient in uncertain times
by Rob Hopkins
Chelsea Green Pub Co, November 2011
320 pages

Abstract

In 2008, the bestselling The Transition Handbook suggested a model for a community-led response to peak oil and climate change. Since then, the Transition idea has gone viral across the globe, from universities and London neighbourhoods to Italian villages and Brazilian favelas. There are now hundreds of Transition towns and Transition initiatives around the world. In contrast to the ever-worsening stream of information about climate change, the economy and resource depletion, the Transition movement focuses on solutions, on community-scale projects and on positive results.

The Transition Companion picks up the story today, describing one of the most fascinating experiments now under way in the world. It answers the question ‘What is Transition?’ and shows how communities are working for a future where local enterprises are valued and nurtured; where lower energy use is seen as a benefit; and where cooperation, creativity and the building of resilience are the cornerstones of a new economy.

In the first part of the book author and Transition movement co-founder Rob Hopkins discusses where we are now in terms of resilience to the problems of rising oil prices, climate change and economic uncertainty. He presents a vision of how the future might look if we succeed in addressing these issues. Rob Hopkins then looks in detail at the process a community in transition goes through, drawing on the experience of those who have already embarked on this journey. These examples show how much can be achieved when people harness energy and imagination to create projects that will make their communities more resilient. The Transition Companion combines practical advice – the tools needed to start and maintain a Transition initiative – with numerous inspiring stories from local groups worldwide.

Review by John Thackara

“One of the many virtues of this awesome and joysome book is that the word “strategic” does not appear until page 272; a section on “policies” has to wait until page 281. It’s not that the book is hostile to high altitude thinking; on the contrary, its pages are scattered with philosophical asides on everything from Buddhist thinking and backcasting, to time banking and thermodynamics. But the rational and the abstract are given their proper, modest, place.

The book is filled with incredibly handy short texts about issues that confuse many of us. What, for example, are we to think of Community Supported Agriculture? Is it enough to sign up to a vegetable box scheme – and find the resulting service inflexible and irritating? Maybe yes and maybe no, writes Hopkins. For him, our relationship with the people who grow our food should be shaped by four key principles (page 268): “shared risk; transparency; community benefits; and building resilience”. Within that framework, the details are down to us.”

29 February 2012

Nudging consumers into making better life choices

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Designers are beginning to understand how irrational thinking plays into the decisions people make, writes Rob Girling of Artefact. That knowledge can be used to openly influence consumers to make responsible choices.

“Recent advances in neuroscience and behavioral economics, cognitive psychology and anthropology are helping us better understand how our brains work and how decision-making takes place. A core finding of this work is that we are not primarily the products of our conscious thinking; we are instead the products of thinking that happens below the level of awareness. Reason, it turns out, is highly dependent on emotional value judgments and therefore is highly susceptible to bias. [...]

Designers have been influencing behavior for a long time. Graphic design, for example, has generally been concerned with either the visual communication of information (implying static transfer of knowledge but not behavioral change) or the creation of attractive, eye-catching, coherent brand stories (attempting to encourage consumer purchasing and loyalty). This design concerned itself with changing or shaping attitudes and emotions toward brands and engaging their rational sensibilities. However, consciously “changing” the behavior of the users is something we argue is a relatively new role.”

- Read article
- Download white paper

29 February 2012

Connected homes for connected people

habitantsconnectes

The French think tank Fing (who was also behind the LIFT France event last year) collaborated last year with VIA, Promotelec, Renault Group, La Poste, Minatec Laboratory (CEA), CNR Santé, ESIR Engineering school on a research project called “Connected homes for connected people” (Habitants Connectés) and have now posted key materials of the project including the presentation (in French) and five (English subtitled) video scenarios.

“How do digital technologies change ways of living and the housing ? Do they cause new problems ? Which new opportunities ? How can the resident be autonomous at home, and create new services, himself ? Here are some questions the “Connected homes for connected people” program has worked on…

More deeply than home automation, digital technologies have invaded homes through mobile phones, personal computers, boxes, TV, game consoles, etc. ”Smart home”, imagined more than 20 years ago, proves to be primarily a communicational and relational home, continuously crossed by various flows. Residents try to manage, control or even shut down these flows. Digital technologies have sustainably transformed our ways of living and housing. Objects, furniture and devices in the house, have gained through digital, new affordances. As a result, new perspectives of uses and living come for the inhabitants. Operators and providers can deliver new services. But there are also new annoyances, discomforts, problems for which improvements and solutions have to be found.

The subject of “Connected homes for connected people” has been explored, through 4 themes, 4 “innovation territories “. 17 “innovation paths” have been developed, suggesting new infrastructures, services, objects and forms of mediation ; 5 videos have been produced to develop them.”

In January, 2012, Fing organized a workshop at Google Zürich, also untitled “Connected Home for Connected People”. This one-day workshop, gathered about twenty people, including Fabio Carnevale Maffé of Experientia.

It enabled them to work on 4 “innovation paths” selected from the 17 paths of “Digital Residents” program. Participants developed three ideas of project : “Tack-tiles”, “Bread Assistant” and “Social scales”.

An English language presentation of the workshop is now also available.

7 December 2011

Homesense final report

Homesense
Homesense was a research project that looked at how we might design smart homes from the bottom up, in an environment of open innovation.

Using open source tools Homesense brings the open collaboration methods of online communities to physical infrastructures in the home.

“The Homesense project was an open research project around the topic of bottom-up smart homes initiated by Tinker London. In mid-2009, founder Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino wrote a blog post highlighting what the opportunities were for a large-scale open source interrogation of the “smart home” concept. Often explored in closed R&D environments, it was possible to think of the results being more relevant and accurate if the participants could build their own solutions to their problems rather than operating under the assumption that most people would accept top-down design. An existing relationship with EDF R&D via Arduino workshops led to a sponsorship from EDF R&D for 50% of the projectʼs value (£58K or so at the time). Partners in the project also included two PhD students from the HighWire group at Lancaster University, Natasha Carolan and Richard Wood who helped design the packaging for the tools available to users in this experiment. The project was eventually wrapped in mid-2011 and technical tools featured at the New York Museum of Modern Artʼs exhibition on smart objects: Talk to Me.”

After almost 2 years, here is finally the final report outlining all the work & findings.

View/download report

7 December 2011

Arup: The technology-enabled city is an untapped source of sustainable growth

New economics of cities
Information Marketplaces: The new economics of cities
Author: Arup, The Climate Group, Accenture and Horizon, University of Nottingham
Publication date: 28 November 2011

The technology-enabled city is an untapped source of sustainable growth.

“Written in partnership with The Climate Group, Accenture and Horizon, University of Nottingham, this report investigates how technology can be used in cities to meet the growing challenges of expanding urbanisation.

The technology-enabled city is an untapped source of sustainable growth and represents a powerful approach for tackling unprecedented environmental and economic challenges.

By unlocking technology, infrastructure and public data, cities can open up new value chains, spawning innovative applications and information products that make sustainable modes of city living and working possible.

While smart initiatives are underway in urban centres around the world, most cities have yet to realise the enormous potential value from fully-integrated, strategically-designed smart city development programmes.

Now is the time for government and business leaders to recognise the value created by smart city thinking.”

1 December 2011

Another Life Is Possible – Homage to Catalonia II

Homage to Catalonia II
“Homage to Catalonia II” is a documentary, a research project, a story of stories about the construction of a sustainable, solidary and decentralized economy.

The video, which is a project of Joana Conill, Manuel Castells and Àlex Ruiz of IN 3, the High School Institute of Research of the University Open to Catalonia, investigates new economic cultures, new forms of living and of understanding the economy. For the .

In particular, it studies the social impact of the economics|economies that do not follow the patterns of the market, where profits are the priority, and that have the satisfaction of the needs and the desires for the persons as a goal.

The video is a tool for research, not a finished or closed work, and is available for free under a Creative Commons license. This is the English version, there are also versions in Catalan and Spanish.

Watch video (Youtube)
Watch video (blip.tv)

24 November 2011

How can we change consumer behaviour to benefit the environment?

Five levers to change
The concept of of social labelling could lead to a subconscious change in behaviour, Guy Champniss writes in The Guardian.

“By social labelling, we’re referring to the tag society gives a particular behaviour in order to make sense of it. In other words, society interprets the action and tags it with a motivation – for all to see – that it considers consistent with the behaviour. This means your individual behaviour can carry a social tag independently of the internal tag you may assign it. The big difference is that the social tag is visible to everyone.

Where this gets interesting is that these social tags can be applied to make sense of the behaviour, but they don’t need to reflect the original motivation. So choosing to take the train rather than the car could be driven at the individual level by a desire to be able to read and make phone calls on the way. But society can publicly tag this behaviour as being pro-environmental in motivation. And society can applaud that motivation.”

Read article

20 November 2011

Sketchnotes of Ezio Manzini at School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Ezio Manzini sketchnotes
This past Monday evening, on an unseasonably warm night in Chicago, sustainability expert Ezio Manzini gave a thought-provoking lecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mr Manzini is a Professor of Industrial Design at the Politecnico di Milano, and is a renowned expert in the application of strategic design for sustainability. His perspectives on systems and service design relate nicely to his core message of sustainability, yielding a compelling framework for a vision of the future city.

Craighton Berman, self-styled “resident sketchnote correspondent”, was there to cover his lecture in drawing-form.

Read article

10 November 2011

Transforming behaviour change

Transforming behaviour change
The RSA’s latest report, Transforming Behaviour Change: Beyond Nudge and Neuromania, argues for a more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between our social challenges, our behaviours and our brains.

Abstract

The Government is taking behavioural science very seriously, but existing nudge-based approaches to behaviour change tend to represent what Aditya Chakraborty called “Cute technocratic solutions to most minor problems”. The major adaptive challenges of our time, including debt, climate change, public health and mental health, require a deeper and more ambitious approach.

Transforming Behaviour Change argues for a more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between our social challenges, our behaviours and our brains, based on a considered response to two major cultural developments. The first is the growing ascendancy of neuroscientific interpretations of human behaviour, leading to fears of reductionism and pharmaceutical control. The second is behaviour change becoming an explicit goal of government policy, leading to fears of Government manipulation and coercion.

The report critically engages with these two developments, and proposes an alternative approach to behaviour change that builds on existing public and professional interest in brains and behaviour. We set out to shift attention away from the threatening idea of ‘science as authority’, justifying moral judgements, medical interventions and policy positions, and focus instead on the more productive notion of ‘science as provocation’, helping people foster the kinds of self-awareness and behaviour change they are seeking to develop.

28 October 2011

Design and the social sector: an annotated bibliography

Design and the social sector
This bibliography – now published on Change Observer – was initiatied in early 2011 as an independent study project by Courtney Drake, a graudate student at the Yale University School of Management.

It overlaps with William Drenttel’s work as a senior faculty fellow at Yale SOM, where Design and Social Innovation Case Studies are published.

Winterhouse Institute is adopting this bibliography as a larger project, and is publishing it as a collborative bibliography — working closely with the participants of the Winterhouse Education Symposia.

Executive Summary

Design thinking, user-centered design, service design, transformation design. These practices are not identical but their origin is similar: a definition of design that extends the profession beyond products. The rise of service economies in the developed world contributed to this movement toward design experiences, services, and interactions between users and products. The literature about design thinking and contemporary ideas reveals common elements and themes, many of which are borrowed from product design processes. They include abduction, empathy, interdisciplinary teams, co-creation, iteration through prototyping, preservation of complexity, and an evolving brief.

The implications of the rise of design thinking are twofold. First, corporate and organizational leaders concerned with innovative prowess are recognizing design thinking as a tool for developing new competitive advantages. Design thinking considers consumers’ latent desires and thus has the potential to change markets rather than simply making incremental improvements on the status quo. Second, many organizations have encountered significant barriers to practicing design thinking internally. In some ways, design thinking runs contra to the very structure of a corporation — it is intended to break paradigms, which may mean questioning power relationships, traditions, and incentive structure, and it may require a corporation to overhaul its business model and cannibalize its success. Additionally, many corporate leaders treat design thinking in a linear manner, a process which compromises the critical elements of conflict and circularity. In many instances, designers have failed to sufficiently translate and articulate their process, and businesses tend to favor past trends over the promise of new discovery.

With corporations struggling to use design thinking effectively, where does that leave the social sector? The organizational challenges facing corporations do not necessarily transfer to nonprofit organizations: more complex systems, higher stakes for failure, limited resources, and intangible evaluation metrics. Designers may be attracted to greater complexity and more wicked problems in the social sector, but they need to prepared to adapt their process and attitudes to create positive change. Perhaps the most significant adaptation designers need to make is in their role. Where product design connotes a sense of authorship, social design demands that designers be facilitators and educators of their processes. Further, they need to recognize they may not be well equipped to solve problems, but can identify problems and co-create with local leaders and beneficiaries.

The value of co-creation is a predominant theme in the literature surveyed here, particularly for Western designers contributing to foreign communities. Another critical factor is continual presence within projects, or better, a longer-term, sustained involvement. Authors speak of the importance of evaluation and metrics to gauge success, but find many projects lacking, perhaps for the same reasons the social sector as a whole struggles with impact measurement. Scaling, adaptation, and replication are buzzwords that pervade the social sector, but are particularly difficult for the product of a design process. Because the process is founded on a deep understanding of a particular user group’s needs, the solution for one community likely does not translate directly to another. However, authors suggest that it is the design process that is scalable and should be taught to local leaders. Failed projects support this assertion; benefits flow through the process of a project as well as the end-product, which further advocates for co-creation. Finally, the literature leave us with an unsettling question: is breakthrough innovation possible in the social sector? Most veterans in this field suggest the answer is no — they recommend that designers start small and introduce incremental change because the complexity of the systems and problems they face will demand it. However, this finding does not negate the potential value of the designer. The social sector needs designers to identify problems, imagine possibilities for a better future, and facilitate problem solving processes.