FUEL Learning Lab: Community Engagement
How we, as citizens, businesses and organizations, can better shape and serve the kind of community we want live and work in.
The learning labs allow participants to dive in a little deeper into topics and take-away new mindsets, techniques and tools to apply them to their own work and life. Because FUEL is a community platform itself, it only seemed natural to explore how we (businesses, organizations and individuals) can better engage and contribute to our community.
The labs presented here will explore community engagement through 3 different viewpoints:
Learning Lab 1: Business that Builds Community
facilitated by Amy Robinson + Katja Macura, LOCO BC
Am I really contributing to creating the community I want to live in? How does your business and your buying habits measure up in terms of supporting your community and local economy? It’s not as easy as supporting the local coffee shops in your neighbourhood!
Learn about the economic impact of businesses big and small, and how a new kind of “eco” footprint – one that considers a business’ economic footprint – is required for “best business practices” today. Take-away a new set of simple tools to evaluate and move your business (and lifestyle choices) to a place that creates the community you want to live and work in.
What are the supports and barriers for increasing the economic impact of businesses in our communities? How do we expect all the businesses in our communities to operate? What kind of culture do we want to foster that informs newcomers about how they need to behave if they want to operate here?
Learning Lab 2: Engaging Generation Z
facilitated by Kari Marken, University of British Columbia
This workshop is all about engaging with the newest (and future) members of the workforce: ‘Generation Z’—youth born between 1995 – 2010. How do they think? How are they uniquely positioned to help us solve the problems in our communities? How can they enhance innovation and creativity in our work? We will explore ideal (and research-backed) approaches for inviting Gen Z into our office spaces, work cultures, and programs to best harness their innovative, entrepreneurial, and creative contributions.
Learning Lab 3: The Role of Creativity for Civic Transformation
facilitated by Justin A. Langlois, Emily Carr University of Art + Design
What’s the role of an artist or designer, or even creativity for that matter, in the world today? Dreaming up a range of possible futures, solving wicked and complex problems, and exploring new ways to act and live differently in the world are just a few of the ways we might expect creativity, art, and design to enter into our organization, our mission, or our business.
But what do those things really mean? Is creativity really the only tool we need? This learning lab will take a dynamic look at a range of curious, cutting-edge, and complex art and design projects that stand out not only because of what they’ve done, but how they do it. By exploring the language and expectations we set around ideas of engagement, participation, and community, this learning lab will provide a way to unpack practices that will help you to leave with tools and know-how to do something transformative, hopefully in ways you never thought possible.
The Real Work of Reaching a Smart City
A hallmark of our networked age is a resurgence in the interest and discourse around the creative, economic, and cultural power of cities.
With the majority of the world’s population moving to city life, and with so many large-scale shifts happening around us, the stakes for getting urbanity right are indeed high.
As interactive designers, it’s not uncommon for us to wonder how digital technology might change cities for the better. You’ve probably heard the term ‘smart cities’ already, a kind of catch-all for augmenting the built environment with networks of low-cost sensors, ubiquitous wifi, mobile devices, and a raft of interacting public and private domain software.
Many of these discussions are excited and hopeful, but as designers we take seriously our responsibility for the things we put into the world. And we’ve been doing this long enough to know that no matter how cool it is, all technology comes with tradeoffs. So if we want smart cities to do the most good for the most people, we need to consider those tradeoffs with city-level thinking.
Here are two trade-offs that often come into our conversations.
The more information that a system has about us, the more it can do to optimize and customize the benefits we expect from it. A city that knows how people move in detail can make hour to hour changes in traffic lights or decade to decade changes to infrastructure that make getting around easier. A grid that knows our daily consumption patterns can adjust capacity and pricing to make the most of our energy supply.
That’s easy to like, but to get there we also have to answer some hard questions. How much of our movement and energy use should be tied to our individual identities? Who can access that information, and what uses of that information would we allow? What are the possible abuses, and what protections are needed?
It’s often exciting to think about new ways that people could interact with their city with digital technology.
A few years ago we built a tool that created a unique social network around every one of the 8,000+ bus stops in and around Vancouver, enabling people to comment and converse about the areas around these points of infrastructure. This Is Our Stop opened otherwise invisible neighbourhood networks and let transit riders know their city a little more.
Other apps have enable people to report problems to the city with a photo and a bit of text, to check their garbage pickup schedules, and even engage in city-wide discussions about civic issues.
But there is a price of admission, and that is affording and feeling comfortable with digital devices. Any city experience that we put exclusively in the digital domain can implicitly exclude those without the means or the savvy to participate. As services go digital, a new responsibility emerges to ensure inclusiveness with affordable connectivity and access to devices.
Not a Doom and Gloom Moment
We think about these things not to throw cold water on optimism, but to calibrate expectations and efforts so that the brilliance of a smart city has the best chance at success. Nothing kills a good idea faster than charging into unforeseen costs, complexities, and cultural realities.
These are hard problems, but they aren’t unsolvable. They only need us to acknowledge that new technology is not just the technology, but it’s also the policies and values that we bring to deciding what outcomes we want. The trick is to make what’s technically possible for a smart city dream only be the start of the conversation. With that kind of thinking, we can get to smart cities that are also inclusive and fair.
Outlaw Economics: A Rogue History of Capitalism
Capitalism has been transformed and shaped by historical developments.
Capitalism is controversial, and has been so from its first stirrings. To many, it is an ill, an inherently flawed system based on greed and inequality, a system imposed by the few on the 99%. To others, it is the most natural and logical way to organize human affairs, an efficient system that rewards ability and hard work, and inherently promotes freedom. Whichever side they are on, to most people, capitalism is explainable through a universal theory — the definition of a universal theory is that it holds true no matter the historical conditions or specific circumstances.
Yet it is neither natural nor inevitable that our world is organized by an economic system we refer to as capitalism: the very fact that there have been other systems before it, and that capitalism has evolved over time, tells us that it is a historical phenomenon. And as such, it is not entirely random, either: it is historically contingent, that is shaped and inflected and constrained by particular historical developments.
Capitalism has been transformed and shaped by historical developments. The capitalism we encounter today, when we buy pepper in the supermarket, is not the same system under which the English East India Company brought spices to Europe; our capitalism is one of international trade treaties, and competition watchdogs, and global supply chains. Just as clearly, our capitalism is not the one of the Lancaster cotton mills, but one of working-age and working-hour regulations, of trade unions, and outsourcing.
As a scholarly practice, history is not about proving any particular logic or theory but about explaining how events actually happened, in all their unpredictability and unruliness. And I think that it is within this unruliness, not in the abstractions of a neat but lifeless theory, that some of the truth about capitalism can be captured.
It is my contention that to cut to the heart of capitalism, to understand it as a system, we need to set aside the trade treaties and workers’ rights and government interventions and study capitalism out in the wild, unencumbered and unrestrained by these restrictions and regulations. This is not to say that those are in any way wrong or misguided: those accomplishments were hard-fought for, have saved millions of lives, and have made our own immeasurably better. But if we are curious to know what capitalism is truly like, what is the best and the worst it can be and will do, when we want to better understand how it emerged historically, then we need to look at the truest, most authentic capitalists there are: outlaws.