“My job is to start conversations that reveal opportunities for change. The outcomes are, typically: a shared perception of new opportunities; new connections between motivated people; and the determination to make something happen. Contact me for a talk or workshop: I can either speak at an encounter on my own, or help you programme a customised event with external participants”
Topics for 2014
FROM FOODSHEDS TO FIBERSHEDS: THE COMING AGE OF THE BIOREGION
Industrial food systems consume ten times more energy than enters our bodies as nutrition, and it took 700 gallons of fresh water to make my two-wash-two-wear cotton teashirt. For our interactions with living systems to be less catastrophic than this, we need to recolocalise resource ecologies and reconfigure the relationship between those who make things and those who use them. But how? Transformation means connecting a variety of different actors, programs and project – ideally, at a regional scale. The talk focuses on live examples from food, water, fiber abnd forest systems. Keywords: regional developement; social-ecological innovation; adaptive co-management; system constellations; system stewards. Sample: John’s keynote at the Buckminster Fuller Challenge is here; his keynote at poptech! is here.
ALIVE! WHEN SOCIAL INNOVATION MEETS LIVING SYSTEMS
Over the ages we’ve invested huge resources to keep cities and nature separate; what would it mean if that were about to change? There is now a shift from high-entropy concepts of infrastructure to a focus on living systems – from eco-boulevards to pollinator pathways. At the same time, a multitude of local communities are innovating new tools and platforms that enable people to share the provision of food, mobility, care, and learning. Taken together, these new ways to meet daily life needs are the seedlings of living local economies. John uses his personal encounters with energy angels, wind wizards, watershed stewards, urban farmers and more to start a conversation: What are the opportunities for your city-region? What approaches work best in amplifying change? Keywords: design strategy; transformation; transition; social-ecological innovation; micro-economies; transactional capacity; constellations; system stewards. Samples: John’s talk at the Informal Economy Symposium in Barcelona is here; his keynote at Norway’s Design Day is here; his talk at the 2011 Architecture and Energy conference in Philadelphia is here; his keynote at the Buckminster Fuller Challenge is here; his keynote at poptech is here.
THINK MORE, BUILD LESS – HIGH SMARTS, LOW-TECH MOBILITY
Driving a two ton truck to collect a ten ounce pizza may be normal now – but to our children, when they old enough to drive, it will sound like madness. Wise to the fact that 40 opercent of travel time is spent walking, or waiting, they will use bicycles, and walk, far more than we do. Truly sustainable mobility is about new social practices and resource-sharing that enable us to move within and between cities in new ways. In the truly smart cities now emerging, citizens use the power of networks to occupy space – and time – in far lighter ways. Keywords: energy; time and space; land use; smart cities; demotorisation; collaborative services; intelligent transportation; scalar hierarchy; distributed computing; law of locality. Sample text: Audi Urban Future Award (John chaired the international jury in 2012)
OPPORTUNITIES IN SUSTAINABLE TOURISM
When a tourist from a rich country uses as much water in 24 hours at their destination as a local person uses in 100 days; or when people who look after you on vacation receive five percent or less of the amount you paid for the package; well, the time has come to change the business model. Inspired by P2P travel and the sharing economy, new kinds of ‘leave things better’ ecotourism are now emerging that are based on a spirit of reciprocity and connectedness with local communities. Another driver is a commitment to improve the health of the living systems visited. Keywords: Active travel; P2P Travel; sharing economy; Fair Trade Tourism; Learning journeys; Green Grand Tour. Sample text: Green Tourism
HEALTHCARE: THE SOCIAL DIMENSION
Ninety five percent of person-to-person healthcare happens outside the bio-medical system of big hospitals – in the home and in the community. But this social dimension receives too little attention. As so-called ‘people-powered health’ finds its way from the global south to the industrial north, there’s a huge opportunity to enhance participatory service networks – from child care, to dementia support – that empower people to work in equal and reciprocal relationship with professionals. This talk explores the platforms and practical measures needed to support the people who already do the bulk of caring, and will continue to do so. The leson: Health and wellbeing are not something ‘delivered’, like a pizza, or ‘produced’, like a car. Keywords: health; care; wellbeing; service innovation; social economy; participatory service networks; informal economy. Sample: John’s talk at Mayo Clinic is here
TRUST IS NOT AN ALGORITHM: BIG DATA ARE HOT, BUT THEY MISS INTANGIBLE VALUE
By some accounts the world’s information is doubling every two years – but what to do with it? Business hopes that Big Data will give it a ‘360 degree view’ of customers; governments hope that Big Data will help them allocate resources more effectively. These opportunities are real – but there’s also a danger that we focus so much on the instrumentation that we lose sight of other opportunities. Numbers miss important things which cannot be counted: trust, tacit knowledge, shared values, the uniqueness of place.The talk explores the best way to combine the insights of Big Data with the huge potential of social and ecological innovation. Keywords: Big Data;
WHAT MAKES A CHANGE LAB SUCCESSFUL?
A top-down, control-minded approach is not the best way to transform complex living systems. A better approach is to ‘seed’ the edges of a system with multiple small experiments. Whether the form of organization is a lab, a hub, or an incubator, certain tasks are common: starting conversations among diverse stakeholders to reframe the question; talent spotting the change agents that catalyze system-wide change; turning prototypes into enterprises. What are the best ways to support, connect and amplify these experiments? The talk is based on change labs from the worlds of health, energy, food, and mobility. Keywords: transition and transformation; social-ecological systems; collaborative services; informal economy; participatory service networks; transactional capacity; enabling hubs and platforms; civic labs; social franchising.
ECOLOGICAL AESTHETICS: NEW WAYS OF KNOWING
Even when we are exposed to shocking stories and images, nothing seems to change in the system as a whole? Why is that? One explanation is that our world is awash in information, but starved of meaning: We live in a ‘desert of the Real’ in which mediated and abstract communication steadily widens the disconnect between humans and the biosphere. With a sense of ecological responsibility towards future generations comes a respect for perceptual diversity and new ways of knowing. Keywords: Cognition; Vital Signs; New Metrics; Ecological Literacy. Sample texts here
Sample videos (six minute sequence) here
John Thackara does big-picture keynote talks for a wide variety of public and private sector organisations. He also chairs events, and people enjoy his interviews with speakers and panels. Here is some feedback:
“an insightful, engaging, critical, and charismatic jury chairman” Stylepark AG, Curator, Audi Urban Future Award
“an inspiring presentation for our executive workshop” Ikea
“a global expert on innovation and the green economy” McKinsey Quarterly
“you lifted the conference and discussion to a high level” Oslo Architecture Triennale
“our high-level guests greatly appreciated John’s challenging talk” T-Mobile
your lecture created an enormous buzz” Vision2020 Leicester
John explains: “If you’d like me speak at or facilitate an event, please contact me at: john [at] thackara [dot] com. The more you can brief me in advance, the better. I like to know: what sorts of people will be in the audience, and how many will come; what their expectations of the event are; and what you would like them to take away”.
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.
Doors of Perception Xskool Workshops
Innovation means connecting with new people and contexts – and we strongly prefer to venture outside the conference hall to do that. In a Doors of Perception Xskool, a host project, or place, engages with motivated and expert visitors. See here for examples.
From The Boardroom
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.
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” mediabistro.com
In The Blogosphere
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”
Fiona Raby, architect, London: ”your lecture got us thinking and it is still keeping us stimulated”
Andrew Guest, writer and editor, Edinburgh: “a tour de force around the potential of design to make a better world”
Advertising-information.com ”an extraordinary, candid and inspiring keynote”
Antony Townsend, Institute for the Future: “a treat…a wonderful address”
If you would like John to speak at or facilitate your event, please email john (at) doorsofperception(dot) com