When 10×10=1,000,000 — 4 Examples of Coupling Social and Technical Innovation

People continuously develop amazing technical innovations: urban agriculture; CRISPR; drones, blockchain; electric cars; work on Mars; language translation.  On all fronts, technology is bringing more abundant solutions.  On a scale of 1 to 10, these technical innovations are 10s.

People also continuously come up with social innovations: crowdsourcing; online platforms; sociocracy; hubs;; sacred hospitality; innovation labs; global action networks.  People are experimenting everywhere with ways to interact more abundantly.  On a scale of 1 to 10, these social innovations are 10s.

While these technical innovations and these social innovations are 10s, bringing 10X impacts to the problems they address, they are small compared to the 1,000,000X solutions people are finding when they combine the two: technical and social innovations.  Something very interesting is happening in this space where people are coupling technical and social innovation.  As part of the Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience, we are very exited about these coupled innovations, finding more of them, and learning with them about what they are doing.  Here are four cases we have found.

  1. Innovation Ecosystems in Mexican Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency.  Technical innovations in energy and finance.  Social innovations in connecting innovation ecosystems.
    • Equitable engagement of the natural and social capital of rural indigenous communities in Mexico with global financial, social, and environmental metrics, and intellectual capital leads to: (1) large-scale carbon emission reduction through renewable energy and energy efficiency; (2) equitable access to energy efficiency and renewable energy; and (3) locally generated economic wealth.
    • See the documentary of this initiative that engaged 286 university professors and researchers from rural universities and local indigenous communities throughout Mexico, leading to 93 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
  2. Fostering Local Wellbeing in South Africa.  Technical innovations in complementary currencies and youth video documentaries.  Social innovations in building local capacity to develop an evolving collective narrative through youth ambassadors and videography, coupled with locally controlled complementary currencies to fund local wellbeing.
    • A two-year long, University of Cape Town African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) research project that took place in two South African municipalities – the Greater Kokstad Municipality in KwaZuluNatal, and the Bergrivier Municipality in the Western Cape, from August 2014 – September 2016. The project engaged out-of-work, out-of-school local youth – the FLOW Ambassadors – to build both individual and community capacity to thrive and innovate in the face of the growing challenges of climate change, resource depletion and inequality.
    • See many of the videos describing this journey in two townships.
  3. Global Anti-Corruption Coalition.  Technical innovations in measuring corruption and in national anti-corruption, pro-transparency policies.  Social innovations in interweaving global policy and attention with local action, across 120 countries, giving a voice to the people seeing corruption and to those affected by corruption.
    • Fighting corruption around the world since 1993.  “We’ve fought to put in place binding global conventions against corruption. We’ve held governments and companies to account, exposing the corrupt and dodgy deals (saving more than US$2 billion in the Czech Republic alone). We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people to take a stand” (https://www.transparency.org/impact).
    • See an Impact Report describing many examples of how people are changing the global discourse and outcomes around corruption, one place at a time.
  4. Portable Solar-Powered Stoves.  Technical innovations in light-weight, solar-powered cookers.  Social innovations in giving free-energy, portable cooking to the global poor, in dozens of countries.
    • Saving lives from indoor toxic smoke from stoves with solar-powered, portable stoves that cost nothing in fuel to run.
    • See videos about the innovations.

Four examples of massively impactful interventions, coupling technical and social innovations to have a much larger impact, orders of magnitude larger.  These technical-AND-social innovators are discovering that either innovation alone–only technical or only social–is not enough.  Coming up with a great technical innovation that stays within the previous social form tends to have only local and limited success in transformative impact resilience.   Likewise, a social innovation in how people interact with the same technology also tends towards the 10X impacts: far less than the impact resilience available when there is an innovation in the what, who, how, why, when, and where–in the technical and the social dimensions.  Innovations where 10X x 10X can equal 1,000,000X.

Guest post — An Abundance-based Approach to Fostering LOcal Wellbeing (FLOW)

Guest post by Anna Cowen, Meshfield co-founder, architect, urbanist, facilitator, and Vibrancy South Africa steward and John Ziniades, Meshfield co-founder, internet entrepreneur, engineer, facilitator, and Vibrancy South Africa steward

FLOW

What is the light touch needed to awaken a place into its’ full expression of “grounded possibility”? How can we foster the kind of growing conditions that will support human beings’ capacity to thrive in the face of mounting inequality and poverty, devastating climate change, peak energy and water, widespread resource depletion and eco-system destruction?

These are the key guiding questions that inspire the FLOW project, a new initiative with deep, old roots that is currently unfolding in two South African locales simultaneously.

A sense of “what is possible”: imagine interconnected networks of self-governing, self-regulating, agile communities that are intimately connected to and protective of their locales, each living within the carrying capacity of their place. Communities that know the contours of their landscapes, in their physicality, and communities that are peopled with individuals who know and are known through their relationships with one another. Places where the idea of “work” is fundamentally reframed into something that is enjoyed, not endured, where “work” is expressing the fullness of being human, in all our abundant creativity, in service of both our selves and our communities. Communities that are rooted in the local, yet connected globally, part of planetary networks of iterative learning and rapid feedback, where knowledge is a common good and the enclosure of the knowledge commons a distant memory. Places where everyone has enough – where most basic needs are met through hyper-localized production of food, energy, water, shelter and clothing supported by systems of globally networked, distributed manufacturing using open methods of production. And where trade and learning between bioregions and countries and continents ensure access to the goods and services that can’t be made locally. These are communities where the elderly are honored as the keepers of wisdom, are included and taken care of, and where preventative health care and life long education are knitted into the very fabric of daily life.

The FLOW Project proposes that the ‘growing conditions’ needed to both ground this imagining and to support the kind of innovation, creativity and adaptive capacity that will ensure that sentient life can still thrive on earth require three interpenetrating, foundational dimensions. Each dimension is expressed in both individuals as well as in communities as a whole. The first is a thorough and embodied awareness, understanding and knowledge of the systems that support life, both the natural and human made systems. The second is a grounded sense of self-worth, autonomy and agency. The third – robust community bonds and strong social ties – a sense of communion and belonging. FLOW suggests that if these three cornerstones are strong, and are nourished and replenished on an ongoing basis, then a thick and fecund mesh of ‘grounded possibility’ will develop, enabling the kind of bold new thinking, doing and being that is needed if life is going to flourish on earth again.

The FLOW project goes about building and enhancing these three cornerstones in any given community through three interconnected activities. The first is through developing the leadership skills and capacities of groups of local youth – the FLOW Ambassadors. The second is through making visible, by mapping and storytelling using appreciative enquiry lenses resource flows, natural and human made systems, skills, goods and services, local heroes and heroines. The third is through bolstering localized economic exchange through the introduction of a local currency, a mutual credit system entirely backed by the goods and services of local businesses.

The intention is to create, within FLOW’s first year in any given community:

  • A cohort of trained, empowered local youth in each locale – the FLOW Ambassadors – that will play an awareness raising role in their local communities around the use of the local currencies, general environmental and social awareness and the identification and catalysing of new green and social entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • A first iteration of a functional, context responsive, locally appropriate community currency in place in each town, backed by the goods and services of the FLOW Business Network in each place respectively.
  • A series of FLOW Ambassador generated and community-owned maps (both digital and physical) that include representation of the economic activity in each locale, the resource flows, the unique assets and dependencies of each place, and locally appropriate social and green entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • A series of short movies made on mobile phones by the FLOW Ambassadors that include 30-second “marketing” videos promoting the FLOW Business Network members (also linked to the digital map), a series of 2-minute movies called “Loving Local” that showcase local heroes and assets, 2-minute documentary movies that describe the local resource flows and dependencies, as well as the “Seeds of Transition” movie series – local “positive deviants” that are already demonstrating green and social entrepreneurial activity that can both inspire others, and be enhanced and amplified in their own right.

FLOW has been on the ground since October 2014. See www.flowafrica.org for ongoing updates and more information.