(Above: OuiShare Festival, Paris , 2014. The text of my keynote is here).

The world is not short of ideas – so why invite me to talk, or run a workshop?

I like Marcel Proust’s explanation: “the real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes”.

I come to your event wearing three hats: a philosophy hat, a storytelling one, and a design hat. The philosopher in me asks: “what’s the most important question here?” As a storyteller, I introduce you to real people doing inspiring work around the world. Finally, with my design hat on, I ask how these innovations might be improved upon, with which partners, and how.

The benefits to you? A shared perception of new opportunities, and a determination to make something happen.

I do big-picture keynote talks for cities, companies, universities, and institutions. I often chair events; and people seem to enjoy my Q+A interviews. A combination talk + xskool workshop gives us more quality time together. An hour-by-hour Mentorcard (see below) can be used for follow-up calls and skype sessions.

Current Topics

Alive! When The Sharing Economy Meets Living Systems
De-paving, food co-ops, river restoration, edible forestry, pollinator pathways: all these are early signals of a transition to living concepts of infrastructure. Keywords: smart cities; infrastructure; living systems; social innovation. Sample: my keynote at Poptech! is here; my lecture for Design In Action, in Scotland, is here.

Creativity and Social Innovation
From ‘Paris as a Sponge’ to Twitter-enabled markets, I describe the new solutions, and novel collaborative models, that are transforming the economy as we know it. Keywords: creativity; social innovation. Sample talk: my closing keynote at the Informal Economy Symposium, in Barcelona, is here.

What Makes A Change Lab Successful?
The best way to transform social and ecological systems is to ‘seed’ their edges with small experiments. But how? Keywords: collaborative services; learning networks; enabling platforms; civic labs; social enterprise; franchising. Sample: my talk on Big Data, for AMP, is here.

Sustainable Travel
Inspired by the sharing economy, a new generation of ‘leave things better’ travelers are using the power of networks to connect meaningfully with local communities. Keywords: Active travel; P2P Travel; sharing economy. Sample text: Green Tourism.  A short TV interview about “What next after GDP?” is here.

Health and Care – The Social Dimension
How collaborative service networks – from child care, to dementia support – empowering people to work in equal and reciprocal relationship with professionals. Keywords: health; care; wellbeing; service innovation; social economy; participatory service networks; informal economy.  Sample: My talk at Mayo Clinic is here.

In summary: The grand challenges of our age all entail system transformation: food, ageing, energy, healthcare, cities. Key questions crop up in every context, and in all my talks: Where best to intervene in the system? How to connect with new partners in other disciplines?  How to scale successful solutions?


“Inspirational – ideas and perspectives we had not heard of before“ Nordic Housing Conference
A fantastic talk – it gave us so much to to think about”  Snøhetta Architecture + Landscape, Oslo,
“you challenged us to look outside the square for inspiration”Queensland Tourism
an excellent session on Big Data: it kept people’s attention right to the end”  AMP, Sydney
“an insightful, engaging, and charismatic jury chairman” Stylepark AG, Curator, Audi Urban Future Award
“an inspiring presentation for our executive workshop” Ikea
“you lifted the conference and discussion to a high level” Oslo Architecture Triennale
“our high-level guests greatly appreciated your challenging talk”  T-Mobile
“your lecture created an enormous buzz”  Vision2020 Leicester


strippenkaarten A set-piece talk or workshop is great way to start a conversation – but how to keep it going? Oftentimes, questions pop up after I’ve left; or perhaps someone in your group decides they could use a lead or connection. A Mentorcard buys you an agreed amount of my time in advance for more informal interactions through the year – by email, phone, Skype or, when our paths coincide, lunch. If you want to buy a Mentorcard and skip the talk: That’s possible, too.

Online Talks

This simple but effective online format works well if you need a change of pace in your workshop, retreat, or conference. Sometimes we send a 10-30 minute video lecture ahead of time, that you download; or we can do the whole session live on Skype or FaceTime.

Some recent online sessions:

– foreign ministry officials at a strategy seminar in The Netherlands;
– managers at an innovation workshop in Belgium;
– design educators at their annual conference in the US;
– architects at a festival in Brazil;
– interactive media professionals at a seminar in Hong Kong.

The technical set-up at your end does not need to be complicated – but it helps a lot if someone on your side (not the event chair or facilitator) has the job of communicating with John before and during the live session.

More testimonials

From The Boardroom

Queensland Tourism: John Thackara took me on a ‘design’ journey to see opportunities & challenged me to look outside the square for solutions & inspiration.” David Morgans, Director Destination & Market Development

Ikea: “For our executive workshop on ‘IKEA in 2020’, John introduced us to a variety of low-tech but smart solutions that offered a better everyday life for the many, not just for the few. It was an inspiring presentation” Mikael Ydholm, Range Strategist, IKEA

TNT: “a thought leader who provoked us with outside-in, future-related, concepts and opinions” Arthur van Veen, Divisional Director, TNT Express Specialist Services.

AMP: “An excellent thought provoking session on Big Data which kept people’s attention right to the end. It prompted many questions and created an intensive debate.” Munib Karavdic, Director, Design & Innovation, Customer Solutions

Schiphol Airport: “Your presentation had a substantial influence in defining our board’s aspiration to redefine the airport”. Hubert-Jan Henket, supervisor of architecture and city planning for Schiphol Airport.

Cognis: “John Thackara’s presentation at our annual innovaton awards was inspiring” Dr. Antonio Trius, Geschäftsführer (CEO) Cognis

T-Mobile: “Our high-level guests greatly appreciated John’s challenging talk – and it continues to generate lively discussion internally”. Wolfgang Hisserich, Vice President International, T-Mobile

European Carton Makers Association: “Your presentation gave our conference the positive energy it needs to face the difficult challenges ahead”. Jules Lejeune, Secretary-General, ECMA 

From The Conference Hall

Vison2020 Leicester:”Your inspirational key note address created an enormous buzz and gave people an insight into how people making small changes can have big impacts. Sue Tilley, Head of Inward Investment, Prospect Leicestershire Ltd

BBC: “a broader perspective on how the world’s largest public service organisation might contribute to designing social change. John’s contribution made several senior producers re-evaluate their editorial propositions” Adam Powers, Head of Design for BBC Interactive Factual and Learning.

UnBox Festival, New Delhi: invaluable insights: our festival got an overwhelmingly positive response

Lift: “John challenged us to rethink innovation, its goals, its processes, and its stakeholders. With a combination of wit, concrete examples and analysis, he opened up wholly new possibilities”. Daniel Kaplan, co-director of LIFT Marseille

Global Place: John was asked to to set the tone on ecology and technology at our centennial conference . He did so admirably and compellingly. He’s clearly a key player in the international dialogue on the future of the planet. Douglas Kelbaugh Faia, Dean and Professor, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan

Aspen Design Summit: “John was a gracious and engaged host with such a well-crafted, sharp, pay-attention-or-you’ll-miss-it wit, it ran like footnotes beneath his intelligent commentary”

In The Blogosphere

La Republica, Italy: “an authority and thought-leader for a generation of designers” 
Rhizome: “top dog in the space of flows”
Terra Economica:  “le pape du design” (the pope of design)
Allan Chochinov, Core77:  “a provocative, fulfilling evening…what a delight”
Andrew Guest, writer and editor, Edinburgh: “a tour de force around the potential of design to make a better world”  “an extraordinary, candid and inspiring keynote”
Antony Townsend, Institute for the Future: “a treat…a wonderful address”
Dan Sturges: the top design thinker on the planet”

cv JT CityEcoLab

I am represented by Lavin Agency where you can write direct to Gord Mazur: gmazur [ a t ] thelavinagency [ d o t ] com.
or email john [ a t ] doorsofperception [ d o t ] com
(If you’d like to talk on the phone, or skype, send me: a number, preferred time, and your timezone).