- Get Far Away From USA ... Its Collapse Will Be Messy: Jeff Berwick
- U.S. judge orders Google to turn over data to FBI
- Why Didn't the SEC Catch Madoff? It Might Have Been Policy Not To
- The High Cost Of Unemployment
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- Fracking Tests Ties Between California ‘Oil and Ag’ Interests
Global Sharing Day finally arrived, with events in Melbourne kicking off an exciting 24 hours of sharing.
In the United Kingdom, Continental Europe, and North America, major events will be held to commemorate the sharing done by people and organisations for the general good of community.
In addition, as demonstrated by the specific focus on meal and food-sharing, Global Sharing Day will highlight the global inequities in food availability. As millions of tons of food go to landfill each year, millions of people go hungry.
Sharing food and a meal together creates some of the most essential and lasting bonds. This simple act connects and unites people across borders and allows people to connect on a basic level. Global Sharing Day 2012 will showcase how sharing a meal engenders a community spirit.
Foodsharing, via food banks or other similar organisations, also offers a glimpse into the possibilities of food security. Today, we are seeking to set a record for foodsharing and we will are aided by countless partner organisations around the world.
Global Sharing Day will also celebrate all forms of sharing interactions occurring across the world, from the big to small. We would love your tweets and Facebook messages to serve as encouragement throughout the day!
Stay tuned for more from Global Sharing Day HQ!
Michigan may be known as the home of the Motor City, but there are more than a few folks here who enjoy traveling by bicycle. In Ann Arbor, Common Cycle is a community organization that encourages bicycling as an empowering transportation option by providing access to tools, workspace, and knowledge about bike repair and maintenance. Common Cycle doesn’t have a permanent shop space like many bike collectives do. Instead, we have a Mobile Repair Stand that we set up weekly at community events, where our friendly volunteers support people in their choice to ride bikes by sharing bike repair skills.
Recently, we were also able to get Ann Arbor library system to offer flat tire repair kits at all five library locations, the University of Michigan now has a Fix It Stand on campus, and we are spreading neigbhorhood-run bike labs across the city for kids to learn how to fix and safely ride their bikes at convenient local spots. While many bike kitchens opt for renting one fixed space, we're experimenting with a more decentralized strategy for knowledge and tool sharing and it's definitely helped us reach different kinds of folks in more parts of the city. This strategy helps keep our overhead costs down in a high cost rental market by efficiently using existing spaces, resources and talent in each neighborhood.
As an intern with Shareable, I have been working with Common Cycle to get ready for the Spring rush by partnering with the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, to reach campus and increase bike skillsharing among students. Last Fall, Arielle Fleisher, a public health and urban planning student, coordinated the installation of a Fix-it stand with two outdoor bicycle pumps on campus, as well as a week of campus activities to celebrate bicycling and publicize these new resources. These steps paved the way for organizing a formal student group this semester, called Bike Ambassadors, which works to promote a more bike friendly campus and facilitate bike maintenance skillsharing. Fleisher describes the Bike Ambassadors as “already a small but mighty group working to promote bikes at the University of Michigan.” We want to train students to help other students learn to fix their bikes, promote bike culture through events, and create a website with resources like information on how to bike in winter weather.
Commoncycle has been teaching Ambassadors bike repair so students can confidently share their skills. We wanted to offer a multi-session bicycle maintenance class at the Fix-it stand this spring, but we learned that student organizing can take longer than planned. In April, we offered a scaled back version and partnered with the university’s Center for Campus Involvement to present a bike maintenance workshop at the Fix-it stand. Students learned the basics, like how to fix a flat tire, and got their bikes back in shape on the spot.
Working around the academic calendar, forming sustainable partnerships through authentic collaborative decision-making, and organizing logistics all took much longer than we anticipated to do it right and make it a long-term, viable project. However, we set the foundation to offer a multi-week bicycle maintenance class in the fall, along with many educational and outreach events. The Bike Ambassadors have also been connecting bike enthusiasts on campus to bicycle initiatives and programs happening in the larger community.
Common Cycle formed a partnership with the University Townhouse Cooperative and the Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society to pilot a new bicycle workshop called the B3 Bike Lab, where youth can learn about bike repair, riding bikes safely, and transforming their community and environment. Jonny Lennon, a community leader and founder of the program, was inspired to fix up abandoned bikes in the neighborhood. Jonny says he “wanted to help people build a sense of ownership of their lives. What better way than to get a little greasy while fixing a bike? ...transportation broadens one's living space, opens doors to new places that in some sense were previously closed.” Last year, he organized the B3 Bike Rally, for youth and families in the neighborhood. This year's event in May was aimed at getting youth hyped about the B3 Bike Lab, kicking off June 1st. The Bike Ambassadors are excited to have recruited students from the UM School of Social Work and the School of Education to volunteer as mentors in the program.
May is Bike Month so Commoncycle jumped on board to help with its activities and celebrations. We hosted Dinner and Bikes - a traveling road show that includes a vegan dinner and night of bicycle celebrations in cities it visits. The amazing chef, authors, and journalists stopped in Ann Arbor and shared their stories about how the people of Portland were able to make their city one of the most bike friendly cities in the nation.
Attendee and documentary filmmaker Joe Biel explained, “In virtually every example we've seen there is also a vocal group of citizen activists who are taking a more extreme position than advocates...We see this in everything from organized monthly bike rides to sit ins at city hall. In The Netherlands they went as far as creating the group 'Stop the Child Murders' to demand better bikeways.” It was inspiring, and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our bicycle community with new friends, old friends, students, community members, and bicycle enthusiasts alike.
Through all these different projects, we’ve created some great partnerships with the campus community, including the UM Women in Science and Engineering Program, which we will be working with to offer workshops for their summer camp for middle school girls. We’ve also connected with some great service-learning programs, including the Michigan Community Scholars Program, the Office of Public Health Practice, and more.
Though it takes time and commitment, fostering these organizational partnerships has greatly expanded our reach for promoting cycling through resource and skillsharing. Breaking down barriers to cycling is a core piece of the work that we are doing to create a supportive community that is here to help you hop on your bike and ride your way to a healthier, more sustainable life.
As usual, we asked for questions and you delivered in spades.
In today's podcast, Chris and I are joined by Chris' wife, Becca, in answering a number of the questions posed on this site this week.
- Understanding Cycles – the Two Extremes – Why We must Crash & Burn
- Centerra Gold's Kumtor Mine Stormed In Protest; Kyrgyzstan Declares State Of Emergency
- How CNET founder Halsey Minor blew his tech fortune on way to bankruptcy
- Child victims of Pakistan's 'begging mafia'
- Can Central Banks Really Keep Interest Rates Down?
- Surpluses Help, but Fiscal Woes for States Go On
- B.C.’s opposition to Northern Gateway pipeline plan sends strong message
- Study reveals more acid seas could alter early development of Atlantic longfin squid
About 10 days ago, I attended the Stanford VLAB’s Collaborative Consumption event in Palo Alto where I enjoyed great food, greater company, and an impressive panel. There were a lot of established players and some interesting insights that I wanted to share with Shareable’s readers. Before the panel started, I was struck by two things. Firstly, it’s true that this was an event largely concerned with the ‘business of sharing’, and while talking to other attendees over the buffet, I was hit once again by the creative scope for sharing based businesses.
For instance, I met the two founders of Andante, a startup soon to launch musical instrument sharing in the Bay Area, who seemed confident that they had a niche. Knowing a few musicians myself, I was a little sceptical as to whether they’d be willing to part with instruments they usually treat as extensions of their soul. But I was won over by Ron’s talk of Mom and Pop store instruments, and harassed parents catering to the wavering whims of their musically gifted yet capricious children.
Andante is just one example of the potential shareable business has to go beyond the now well established accommodation and transport players. During the panel the moderator challenged the audience that every craigslist vertical had the potential to become a shareable business; would-be entrepreneurs take note, and pick one that hasn’t been taken yet.
The second thing that struck me was that the Silicon Valley ecosystem is really sitting up and starting to take notice. I met Mark Bunger, the Research Director of Lux Research, which studies tech trends in the Valley for its clients. I was wowed by his talk of synthetic biology and growing houses from seeds, but he mentioned that his company was starting to investigate the innovative business models coming out of the Valley, and that Collaborative Consumption was at the top of his list. With recent features in The Economist, and Boston Magazine, the sharing economy really is going mainstream. Watch where the money is going and it’s even clearer: the event’s moderator, Kanyi Maqubela, is a Venture Partner at Collaborative Fund, an investment fund that specializes in shareable business.
This only became clearer during the panel: BMW’s Peter Dempster was utterly candid about the essential nature of embracing the sharing movement. He seemed personally convinced of the win-win scenarios that car sharing present – reduced congestion, saving the environment, making car use affordable – but he went further to suggest that if BMW didn’t adapt to the new generation’s attitudes towards car use, ownership, and mobility, they would be out of business by 2050. Dempster dreamed of cars that were designed from the get go to be shareable, that extended personalization to any number of users, whose seats, radio stations, heating settings, and everything else could adapt to whoever happened to be sitting in the driving seats. It was heartening to hear such talk from a company I expected to push ownership above all else.
Also during the panel, Andre Haddad, CEO of RelayRides, highlighted how collaborative consumption is pushing innovation in other sectors. He gave the example of RelayRides’ group insurance product, the first of its kind for peer-to-peer car rental in the US. This wasn’t the insurance industry innovating around its own products, but a case of a sharing business demanding innovation. This illustrates how collaborative consumption companies can generate social value beyond their immediate users, pushing for better products and services in the industries they do business with, and indirectly improving the lot for all customers.
In a response to a question about lag times in availability for collaborative consumption, yerdle’s Andy Ruben was buoyant. Describing the slickness of Amazon’s distribution machine with admiration, he suggested that if the true potential of the sharing economy can be tapped, then delivery times of Amazon Prime’s two days would in future feel glacial. Just imagine what people have stored in their houses or lying underused in their cupboards on your street alone. Once we conquer the existing information asymmetry and can easily find out what’s available within walking distance of our homes he argued that lag times would disappear. There was further discussion on delivery methods and collaborative consumption: another potential niche for aspiring start up founders?
As I said, this was first and foremost a business event, and for all the warm fuzzy optimism of the panel it’s important to leave you with the parting comment from BMW’s Peter Dempster, which I paraphrase: selling the same car nine times sounds like a great idea, and so much more civilized than selling it once. What he meant was that selling a share in a BMW, so you can buy the right to use it when you need it, will cost consumers less, and make BMW more money on a per car basis than the way things happen now. Big companies have woken up to the ‘access over ownership’ paradigm and they are out to win in the rising collaborative consumption sector.
As always, please feel free to respond to any of the ideas I’ve raised. You can tweet me at @RoryJHSmith.
We are pleased to announce that PrepareDirect is offering PeakProsperity.com readers a special discount of 5% off the Survival Water Still.
The Survival Still never needs filters. It’s designed and made in the USA with heavy duty stainless steel and it has no moving parts to break down, which means that if you take care of it, it should last you a very long time. It’s small and compact and is designed to be used in conjunction with standard size pots that you have in your home. The Survival Still is the ultimate emergency drinking water system available today.
End the debt-based money system.
Imagine a world without poverty. Imagine enough money for everyone and no debt. In the UK, the Bank Charter Act 1844 gave sole legal power to the Bank of England to issue bank notes and coins into the economy. Similar legislation in other countries gives this power to their Central Banks. Incredibly...
Using valuable food crops like corn and sugar cane to produce biofuels has been a highly controversial topic in an age of imminent food crises. But nobody is growing corn on the former strip mines of Eastern Kentucky.
A look at the region on Google Earth shows a patchwork of bald spots in the forested hills. Surface mining left its mark on the Appalachian landscape through much of the 20th century, as large swaths of native forest were replaced with sparse, scrubby grassland. But University of Kentucky forestry professor Chris Barton sees in the compacted soil of old strip mines the possibility of using former surface mine land for short-rotation forestry—in order to produce fuel.
Here's how it would work: Fast-growing, native trees like black locust could be grown and harvested every five to 10 years; then, the woodchips would be burned in an oxygen-restricted condition to produce combustible gases that in turn could be used to generate energy and heat. After a few generations of short-rotation harvests, the land could be transitioned to a long-term forest.
Barton is the founder of Green Forests Work, a nonprofit spin-off of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative that seeks to reforest lands scarred by mining with native trees—all the while helping to rebuild struggling local economies.A Conservation Corps for the 21st Century
When President Obama delivered his 2009 inauguration speech, he talked about creating green jobs. A light bulb turned on for Barton. Realizing that his reforestation initiative was a shovel-ready project that could create jobs right away, Barton began thinking about approaching the federal government for financial support.Instead of depending on a single, monolithic employer to create jobs, Hall would like to see people taking job creation into their own hands.
Surface mining strips away nutrient-rich topsoil and leaves a devastated landscape that is prone to landslides and water contamination. With the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, mining companies were required to stabilize the land when they were finished mining in order to control erosion. But instead of merely stabilizing, mining companies over-compacted more than 1 million acres of former surface mines using bulldozers. This made it difficult for anything other than grasses and other non-native vegetation to grow.
"This is an environment that had over 100 species of vegetation prior to the mining," explains Barton. "And when you get out on the sites and look down, it's not like looking at your yard and seeing lush grass carpeting; you're going to see very sparse grass, and a lot of patchiness." Now, if Barton's plan works, he hopes to undo some of that damage.
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In 2009, inspired partly by President Obama's speech, Barton wrote up a proposal for putting an army of people to work rehabilitating lands that had been ravaged by industrial machinery. For inspiration, he looked to the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program launched during the Great Depression to create jobs for the unemployed in conservation and natural resources development. Barton's proposal requested federal funding for workers to till the land, grow trees in nurseries, plant trees, and manage the land. But then, just days after Barton submitted his proposal, White House green jobs czar Van Jones resigned, and the prospect of securing funding for Green Forests Work (GFW) quickly dimmed.
For now, Barton has decided to move forward with volunteer labor, using the next year and a half to try to educate the public and raise support for the program. Since GFW was launched in 2008, more than 5,000 volunteers have planted nearly 1 million trees on former surface mine sites. And last year, the program received a $300,000 grant, enabling Barton to add a couple full-time staff members.Life after coal: New economy, new mentality
Coal jobs are increasingly hard to come by in Eastern Kentucky, as the rise of cheap natural gas and waning Chinese demand have led to thousands of layoffs in Appalachian coal towns. GFW's Reforestation Coordinator, Nathan Hall, is a ninth-generation Appalachian who was born and raised in the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky.
Part of Hall's job involves finding local contractors who can loosen up soil that has been compacted by mining equipment so that native trees can grow on reclaimed surface mine land.
By itself, short-rotation forestry might not have the ability to revive local economies across Appalachian states, but Hall believes it would represent a significant shift away from the coal mentality. "I think we need to re-envision how we look at the whole notion of job creation in this region," Hall explains. "We have 100 years or so of history of these large-scale employers coming in and, through one means or another, the workforce has gotten used to this notion of jobs coming from one big employer." Instead of depending on a single, monolithic employer to create jobs, Hall would like to see people taking job creation into their own hands. "I think people need to get a lot more creative," he says.
One example of the type of creativity that Hall would like to see is clean energy production from the same hills that are still scarred from generations of coal mining. The short-rotation bioenergy project that Hall and Barton are working on would be a net positive because it would help loosen the soil and add nitrogen and microbial activity, he argues. Further, the biochar produced during process could be used as fertilizer, completing the closed-loop system.
Three Lessons for Appalachia's Post-Coal Economy
Appalachian residents are working to keep local and sustainable sources of wealth central in a post-coal economy.
Programs like GFW have the potential to put thousands of people back to work, but in the absence of major government backing they're unlikely to produce enough jobs to offset those that have been lost in the coal industry in recent years. The marriage between private entrepreneurship and government incentives is where Hall sees the most potential for job creation. "If there are some decent incentives, in terms of putting that power on the grid, and business incubators that get incentives based on making use of a renewable energy source to power their operation, we could create hundreds of jobs in the region," he says.
Similar short-rotation plantations of black locust have been used to produce bioenergy in Germany, but it's a new concept in the United States. Barton recently planted a 10-acre demonstration project in Kentucky's Perry County to test different species and growing techniques, which will be ready for first harvest in another year or two.
To Hall and Barton, it all comes back to land management. There are thousands of acres of former surface mines that are sitting fallow across Appalachia that could be made productive while reestablishing native forests. It will take a lot of work to restore those forests to what they might have resembled before coal mining swept through the region, and doing so would create a lot of new jobs. Planting trees wouldn't just create jobs in the present, though; forests are renewable resources that can continue to generate economic value over time.
Mark Andrew Boyer wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Mark is a photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in GOOD, Inhabitat, and Mindful Metropolis.
- Fracking the Suburbs: An Explosive Combination?
As oil and gas get harder to find, the industry is drilling in suburbia—and the neighbors aren’t pleased.
- What's Cheaper than Solar, Slashes Carbon Emissions, and Creates Jobs in Kentucky?
Having an energy-efficient home saves the owners money, but they often procrastinate on improvements. When energy companies in Kansas and Kentucky figured out a way to sweeten the deal, the results brought good news for homeowners, contractors, and for the planet.
- Net Zero's Net Worth: How Renewable Energy is Rescuing Schools from Budget Cuts
Educators across the country are finding millions of dollars in savings through cheap and simple forms of renewable energy.
- Are We There Yet?
- Global warming caused by chlorofluorocarbons, not carbon dioxide, new study says
- For New Doctors, 8 Minutes Per Patient
- Chilean president politely reminds Canadian business to follow the law
- Social breakdown now trumps markets as eurozone’s greatest threat
- Deny, Deny, Deny
- Will Saudi Arabia Allow the U.S. Oil Boom? Interview with Chris Faulkner
- GMO Wheat Found In Oregon Field. How Did It Get There?
Want to take a load off? If your seat of choice is a Bench of Friendship, you'll need to find a friend first. Created to "bring friends together," these benches are more see-saw than park bench and require a sense of balance, an adventurous spirit and more than one person to steady.
Created by Fisherman's Friend, the benches elicit squeals of laughter, feats of daring, and the occasional crash landing if balance is not maintained. In the end the benches are a marketing tool, but if that means installing public benches and encouraging interaction, I can live with that.
I came across this DIY chicken feeder, and it looks like a great low-cost solution to keep your chicken feed protected and self dispensing. And since my galvanized chicken feeder finally served its last meal (those chicken can be a bit rough on things), I just might build one this weekend.
Bangla pesa poineer in custody
For more news visit http://www.ntv.co.ke/ Follow us on Twitter http:// www.twitter.com/ntvkenya Like our FaceBook page http://www.facebook.com/NtvKenya
In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Mish discuss:
- Weakness in U.S. Treasurys
- The mother of all powder kegs
- The Japan Bug
- Finally finding its windshield
- The Pain in Spain
- A preview of what's coming to the rest of the EU
- The Odds of a Euro breakup
- Getting higher all the time
- Back to Basics – Gold, Silver, and the Economy
- "Major Shocks Will Become The Norm From Now On"
- US targets digital currency in huge fraud probe
- OECD: Europe's Recession Threatens Entire Global Economy
- ‘A disaster in slow motion’: Wine country latest California region to face fiscal crisis
- How Islamist militancy threatens Africa
- China's dead pig scandal ushers in hard times for fishermen and hog farmers
- Portland, Maine Doctor Forgoes Insurance To Provide Affordable Care To Community
- GMO lose Europe – victory for environmental organisations
- Weather disasters increasing, insurance industry warns
- GM salmon can breed with wild fish and pass on genes
- Oops: Europe’s green mandates have resulted in more imported coal and wood consumption
- Harper government nixed reviews for some oil sands projects following warnings of water disruption
- Corn Growers Turn to Pesticides After Genetically Modified Seeds Fail
- In China, 'cancer villages' a reality of life
- Officials: NM ranch had 1,000 emaciated cattle
by Hillete Warner
Global Innovators is a 10-part series that celebrates the remarkable work of social innovators from outside the English-speaking world. Twice a month we profile the stories of inspiring community pioneers from across three broad cultural clusters: change enthusiasts from Italy, France and the Spanish-speaking world. The series, inspired by the multilingual editions of the Enabling City toolkit, focuses on a rich variety of themes that explore 'enabling' frameworks for participatory social change.
From CityCamps to crowdsourcing, Manuel Portela has worked across Latin America to help cities tap into one of their greatest resources: curious, connected, capable citizens. As an interaction designer and an event coordinator, Manuel works to develop platforms that help people come together and explore their creative side. We spoke to him today about collective brainstorming, community-building and the power of 10,000 ideas.
Enabling City: Like others in our series, you are a designer by training. How did you become involved in the world of crowdsourcing, CityCamps and social innovation?
Mauel Portela: I was studying graphic design at Buenos Aires University while building my programming skills on the side. Because of this, I was approached to lend a hand on a few research projects related to urban planning and social innovation. At the time, I was also working as a freelance event producer and learned a great deal about how meeting spaces can generate unique interactions. Today, I'm interested in the city as interface so I use a design-based approach to bring citizens and institutions together.
EC: One of your projects, 10.000 ideas, is a crowdsourcing platform to re-think urban livability in Latin America. What was the inspiration behind it?
MP: My early design projects led led to an interest in the development of participatory maps and digital interfaces. One day, I came across New York’s ChangeByUs campaign and thought it was very impressive, though I found the conversation to be flowing mostly in one direction: there were ideas for one city directed to and curated by one administration. This inspired me to develop a similar platform, this time open to all of Latin America. In essence, 10.000 ideas is a repository of suggestions and solutions that anyone – whether in the public, private or civil sector – can share and implemenet with others. I hope to see more and more places for this kind of problem-solving ‘offline’ but, in the meantime, we can make the most of what the web has to offer.
EC: You're also the founder of CityCamp Buenos Aires and Chiripa-City Starters. How do you see these initiatives contributing to the democratization of participation in cities?
MP: Physical spaces are essential to effective participation, and CityCamp was the first event developed to stimulate fresh thinking for and about cities. The event is an international format with its own brand and history where participants share project ideas, brainstorm solutions, and test them together. In 2012, I helped bring a CityCamp in Buenos Aires and later inSantiago, and there will be more cities participating this year.
CHIRIPA, on the other hand, is an umbrella organization for my work. It stands for ‘serendipity’, which is a principle behind everything I do. It was founded last year as an 'urban lab' for local initiatives and has now grown into a full-fledged consulting firm. We mostly work with local governments to ‘open up’ urban management and decision-making. We prioritize collaborative projects where we act as facilitators, but we also provide expertise in design, programming, event production, and academic research. Two of our major projects focus on sustainable development and creative communities, and we are working with the Ministry of Modernization on a new SmartCity Index to develop tools that encourage citizen participation.
As a citizen, I believe we need more spaces to think about the cities we live in in an inclusive and hands-on fashion. The two initiatives help me work on this in a well-rounded way – with communities and government.
EC: How is working in Buenos Aires and Santiago?
MP: The cities are very different and have been through very stark transitions. Buenos Aires suffers from a serious transportation problem; the economic crisis is embedded in the very fabric of the city. The community of urban enthusiasts is small, the concern for the development of the city is very recent, and there is almost no appreciation for urban issues. Much remains to be built here, in the cultural sense more than anything else. We have to work to prove that being an active citizen is important.
Santiago is totally different. It has grown significantly in the past five years because it is in booming growth. People have been taking an interest in decision-making in part due to a widespread re-hauling of the transportation system that has gone pretty badly. As a result, there is a growing concern for urban planning and public policy, and an active community of people involved in these issues. It is in Santiago that I got the idea for 10.000 ideas, thanks also to the inspiration provided by websites like Plataforma Urbana.
EC: With experiences both online and offline, what is your favorite approach to community building?
MP: I like toolkits like Enabling City, Streetplan’s Tactical Urbanism or The Placemaker's Guide for their ideas on how to create spaces for change. As a designer, I am also passionate about the process itself so I rely on design thinking and toolkits like IDEO’s Human Centered Design. I am a very methodical person and I like to outline and diagram my way through things –I'm not very good with chaos! In the end, no matter the tools, I think the real secret is investing in the generation of social capital. That and being intentionally pro-commons, because it is that that helps us rethink the relationship between cities and citizens. Today more than ever, public spaces are coming under attack so it is important to find new places for community creation, places where we can safeguard the common good.
In this sense, the Internet can be useful in transcending boundaries – virtual and physical alike. It is no coincidence that successful networks are relevant in both realms. I’ve always been an advocate for thinking about the city outside of the box, thinking beyond its jurisdictional boundaries. I interact daily with virtual networks that help grow my local initiatives and this is important because being surrounded by people with no vision can easily degenerate into an alienating feeling that “it’s not worth it,” or that “nothing makes sense.” Crossing paths with people working on progressive projects, on the other hand, can be very motivating.
Everybody wants to live better, but not everyone works on it. Community-building can be a powerful way to dream up tools and share knowledge in support of an empowered, creative citizenry.
Drake University students won a Shareable seed grant program this past February to host a book swap as a service project to improve youth literacy. Students in Iowa are passionate about literacy as a crucial path to being able to live a meaningful and financially stable life. Fifty-six percent of US prisoners have very low rates of literacy which is in turn linked to very high rates of unemployment, speaking to the need to foster a love of reading at an early age.
Joining together on April 23rd, eighty-five children from the Des Moines community and sixty-eight volunteers from Drake University celebrated the first DU Blue Book Bash. Local Des Moines Public School students swapped their old books for a new book while engaging in fun activities like making bookmarks, munching on healthy snacks, writing a letter to an athlete, designing street painting squares, and doing read-out-louds. Activities centered around the 104th annual Drake Relays, which bring in hundreds of world class athletes and thousands of fans this year as the host for the Olympic trials.
Planning was put into action after Drake student organizations, the Student Activities Board and Student Senate approached Drake’s Service-Learning office about putting on an event to help bridge the gap between Drake students and their local community during the Relays. The idea of a book swap was birthed from a partnership with the organization Everybody Wins! Iowa. Everybody Wins! is a non-profit that promotes a love of reading through a mentorship program for Des Moines public school students, who are on free and reduced lunch and often can't afford books.
The DU Blue Book Bash was an awesome event and went much better than expected for the first time holding such an event on Drake’s campus. One volunteer, Jared Simmer stated, “I feel the DU Blue Book Bash really opened my eyes to the needs of the community. I now plan on becoming more involved in the Des Moines community through different volunteer opportunities to help these kids that are in need of finding an outlet to grow.” Jared Simmer brought in a book to donate along with many other of the event's participants.
The nearly 300 books that were donated were collected as a fundraiser through the organization Better World Books. The Book Bash had such an impressive impact on the community, students are already on board for the 2nd Annual Blue Book Dash. Student volunteer Moller Wheeler said, "It was a fabulous success and such an awesome experience for the students here to be able to participate in a service project during relays week, without even having to leave campus! More importantly, the children that came to the event experienced a little piece of the relays, developed more of a connection with Drake and took home a free book!"
When you buy a piece of clothing, how much thought do you give to how it was made?
Few shoppers do. But they should. In many respects, where our clothes comes from is nearly as important as where our food comes from.
The recent tragedy in Bangladesh, where over 1,000 sweatshop workers died in a building collapse, provides a stark reminder of this.
In this podcast, I talk with retail entrepreneurs Scott Leonard and Matt Reynolds, co-founders of Indigenous Designs, to get a better understanding of the notoriety the textile industry has earned (much of it well-deserved) and learn about new business models that promise to transform it for the better.
Image adapted from an original at Nómada Blog
Authored by Bernardo Gutiérrez. Translated by Stacco Troncoso, edited by Ann Marie Utratil - Guerrilla Translation! Original article at 20minutos.es. (This translation features additional original content by the author, which was not published in the original 20minutes article)
It seems that “lab” is the word making the rounds amongst innovation buffs these days . Maybe the term "laboratory" isn’t the most appropriate analog, given that its dictionary definition, “a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurement may be performed”, falls short in describing the present day use of "lab", and what these spaces are about.
This divergence of terms originated with the foundation of the first Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in 1985, a space characterized by its convergence of technology, multimedia art and design. However, in recent years, MIT’s model seems obsolete and at a standstill, especially when compared to a newer and more relevant generations of labs. Madrid’s MediaLab Prado, currently celebrating its tenth anniversary at a new location -- la Serrería Belga -- stands out as the premier reference points for labs worldwide.
So, what is a lab, exactly? A technical laboratory? A multidisciplinary space open to the public? Rather than nailing down one definition, it may be better to observe some of these labs worldwide, and notice the local idiosyncrasies. Any city eager to reinvent itself and adapt to the networked society invests in an urban lab, such as the Laboratorio Procomún in Rosario, Argentina. Cultural centers like, for example, Ljudmila Media Lab (Liubliana, Slovenia) are currently mutating into places where the artistic paradigm goes beyond art objects. Digital art spaces, such as the prestigious Eyebeam in New York, are recycling themselves following collaborative models. All of the above share a common source of inspiration: Medialab Prado Madrid.
This could likely be said about many other institutions, labs, universities and cultural centres around the world. Any city would be proud to host something like a Medialab Prado. What is it about this media lab’s DNA that makes it so desirable in areas as diverse as technological innovation, culture and civic participation?
The key to MediaLab Prado’s success may be held in a definition first proposed by José Luis de Vicente: “it’s a community incubator”. In fact, both words, “community” and “incubator”, have been the trend amongst Silicon Valley circles and community managers alike. It’s also worth noting that, as terms, they are seldom seen together. And, as Juan Freire and Antoni Gutiérrez Rubí express in their book “Manifiesto Crowd”, in the age of networks, innovation walks a different path. “The factories that were churning out companies in the 20th century are dead. The 21st century is witness to the birth of spaces for collective innovation”. An incubator lacking a community will never be enough. This is the reason why a lab - both in its physical and digital realms - needs to be an open platform. And that is precisely why MediaLab Prado has become such a a relevant space for coexistence, innovation and mutual co-creation.
MediaLab Prado is both a physical and a digital platform. Physically, it’s a space where anyone can walk in, while online it functions as a laboratory for connecting ideas. MediaLab Prado is an interdisciplinary workspace for creation and innovation. And here’s an important detail: its strength doesn’t reside in its own programming, put together by stewards and specialists. It lies instead in the various working groups, projects and encounters collectively cooked up by the citizen communities who frequent Medialab’s headquarters, or participate in its digital channels. Every Friday, for example, there’s an open lab where anyone can collaborate with anyone else in the creation of new projects.
Another defining feature is its focus on prototyping - another digital culture and IT term. Prototyping culture doesn’t seek definitive or finished products; instead, it prefers to function in a transparent and collective manner, employing open projects in a constant, citizen-fueled process of improvement. All in all, MediaLab Prado has become a catalyst for culture, technology, networks, science, education, and innovation.
Evidently, MediaLab Prado’s official areas of competence are both necessary and relevant. Interactivos? (a laboratory for creative and educative technological applications) Visualizar (data and citizenship visualization) or its Commons Lab (transversal investigation centered on the Commons) are clear international reference points. Additionally, self managed working groups, such as “Funcionamientos: Diseños abiertos y remezcla social” (Functioning: Open design and social remixes) or “Género y Tecnología” (Genre and Tech) are just as influential. MediaLab Prado cannot simply be described as a "Cultural Centre", as it is so much more than a building populated with works of art or technological infrastructures. It’s a connector, a hub, a platform for the collective intelligence that is transforming industry, economics, technology, education and art throughout the whole planet.
In fact, it’s been one of the citizen hubs where civic activism slowly forged the 15-M/ Indignado movement that heralded Occupy Wall Street and the global revolution. To give an example, in early 2011, while Spanish mass-media ignored collectives such as Democracia Real Ya or Juventud sin Futuro, the Redada Encounters in MediaLab Prado transformed an incumbent and collective -as opposed to hierarchical- form of web activism into a palpable phenomenon. Open code practices, now essential to modern activism, have always been central to MediaLab Prado.
The challenges in this new chapter in MediaLab Prado's history are undoubtedly many. One of the most important will be channeling corporate innovation and navigating new economic paradigms. At a time in which The Economist, no less, dedicates its front page to the sharing economy, MediaLab Prado is in a better position than many. By developing its own trajectory, it could well become a great catalyst for the future networks of innovation, open culture and citizen intelligence that will soon be needed in Europe. In fact, connections established within MediaLab Prado in these last few years have given rise to projects and citizen start-ups such as MLP, Play the Magic, Open Materials, Hackteria, Lummo, Muimota, Máster DIWO, Ultralab and Data Citizen Driven City, amongst many others. Certain working groups, like IoT Madrid (Internet de las Cosas) or exhibitory projects such as Impresoras 3D: Makerbot y Reprap clearly lead the way to the future.
Living at a time when most of the world’s population is concentrated in cities, urban innovation may well be MediaLab Prado’s greatest challenge. It’s no coincidence that some of the most influential labs in the world, such as CityLab in Cornellà, Barcelona or the BMW Guggenheimlab in New York, are focusing their efforts on urban innovation. This is the reason why Medialab Prado’s new location at the heart of historic Madrid is so essential. Its urban vocation is most evident in working groups such as Ciudad y Procomún, the new Ciencia Ciudadana (Citizen Science) station or projects like Hacer barrio or Quality Eggs.
The history of Barrio de las Letras -- or “writer’s district” -- where Medialab Prado is currently located, is another key facet. The scientific institutions of the 18th Century were responsible for the first major developmental push in Madrid, which then led to the expansion of Barrio de las Letras. During this time, the city witnessed the construction of the Botanical Garden, the Astronomical Observatory, the Academy of the Sciences (which now houses the Prado Museum) and the General Hospital (currently housing the Reina Sofía Museum) and the “Gabinet de Máquinas” a demolished Industrial Engineering museum from that era and situated quite close to the old Army Museum. All of this frantic building activity took place in less than 3 decades. MediaLab Prado´s new location in the Serrería Belga, an old abandoned industrial building, is another telling metaphor of an industrial era that left so many urban carcasses in its wake.
In summary, the conversion of an old, abandoned, industrial space into an citizen innovation lab in the same area where literature and science flourished in centuries past, is a promising metaphor indeed. MediaLab Prado is one of the closest examples of the new Partner State proposed by Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation. A State which guarantees the necessary space and resources to activate a P2P society’s collective intelligence for the improvement of the Commons.
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