development & design

Conflict and Design

An exhibition in Belgium poses a timely challenge: When confronted by such complex issues as an ageing population, resource depletion, migration, or growing impoverishment, how are we to balance the desire to do something positive, with the need to understand the back story before we intervene? The installation (shown above) consists of open books, in different […]

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Shoe City vs Sole Rebels

Two radically opposed models of development are being born in Ethiopia at the same time. One is small, local, socially fair, and ecologically respectful. The other takes the globalisation of fashion to a new and more destructive level. No sooner had I posted a long piece on Politics And The Fashion System than two stories  reached me from Ethiopia […]

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Ecuador, Open Knowledge, and ‘Buen Vivir’: Interview With Michel Bauwens

“The global economy treats nature and material resources as if they were infinite, and knowledge as if it was scarce. We have to swap those two around”. (Michel Bauwens). Audio interview below the fold.  Having enshrined the rights of nature in its constitution (*) Ecuador is now exploring how this principle, and the principle of open knowledge, […]

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Green Tourism: Why It Failed And How It Can Succeed


Packaged mass tours account for 80 percent of journeys to so-called developing countries, but destination regions receive five percent or less of the amount paid by the traveller. For local people on the ground, the injustice is absurd: if I were to pay e1,200 for a week long trek in Morocco’s Atlas mountains, just e50 […]

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Cycle Commerce As An Ecosystem

(Illustration: Sameer Kulavoor Ghoda Bicycle Project) At a workshop in Delhi a few weeks back, during the UnBox Festival, Arjun Mehta and myself posed the following question to a group of 20 professionals from diverse backgrounds: What new products, services or ingredients are needed to help a cycle commerce ecosystem flourish in India’s cities, towns and […]

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A Roof, A Skill, A Market: The Multiple Dimensions of Scale

[ Photograph: http://www.arquiteturadeterra.com ] “Beware the scale trap”.  In a recent Letter To Philanthropists Parker Mitchell,  a former CEO of Engineers Without Borders in Canada, advises potential donors that “scale is important, but don’t rush it. Most good ideas take time – to iron out the details, to bring down the costs, to be tested in different environments”. […]

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An Open Design School for India

(Image from http://openwear.org/) In recent months a working party in India, chaired by Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovation, has been developing the plan for a nationwide network of 20 Design Innovation Centres, an Open Design School, and a National Design Innovation Network. The latest public version of the plan is here: Download pdf    During this process, I was invited by Abhimanyu […]

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Why Bill Gates Needs To Listen To More Gamelan Music

Ritual as Feedback in Bali  The unique social and ecological nature of regional watersheds was the focus of a mesmerising presentation by Stephen Lansing at last month’s poptech conference in Iceland. His key point: Bali’s subak water management system is a “coupled social-ecological system”. Balinese farmers have been growing rice in terraces since at least the eleventh century. […]

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It’s (Still) Not Just The Bags

[I'm re-publishing this story to celebrate the fact that I just got to Sao Paulo, met Adelia Borges, and discovered that the first print-run of her book has sold out in just a couple of months. Adelia explained that one of the organisations doing great work here in Brazil, in support the development of indigenous […]

Also posted in locality & place | 1 Response