2014, Issue 167

Welcome to the
Club of Amsterdam Journal.

Join the Club of Amsterdam in May about
the future of Green Architecture
Retrofitting existing houses and historic buildings. Zero-energy buildings.
Thursday, May 29, 2014, 18:30 - 21:15. Ascension Day / Hemelvaartsdag.

and our June event about
the future of Transformation
Thursday, June 26, 2014

Transformation is everywhere. Due to changes in the economy, the climate, technology and lifestyle we are transforming our infrastructure, our houses, our companies our cities and ourselves all the time. This evening we will discuss the future of transformation. Big plans and top down is over, are we ready now for bottom up or are there other strategies to think of?"

Felix F Bopp, Founder & Chairman


Scaling up inclusive innovation: asking the right questions?

May Event: the future of Green Architecture

June Event: the future of Transformation

News from the world of robots

Ocean noise – the underestimated disruptive factor

Club of Amsterdam blog

News about the Future

Recommended Book: Social Innovation: Solutions for a Sustainable Future

Socratic Design

Futurist Portrait: Jeremy Rifkin


Special Supporters

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.Scaling up inclusive innovation: asking the right questions?

by Adrian Smith, Senior Lecturer, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, The Sussex Energy Group

There has always existed an insistent undercurrent of grassroots innovation activity in societies. Whether born of material or economic necessity, or motivated by social issues marginalised by the conventional innovation systems of states and markets, networks of grassroots innovators have worked to find development solutions that meet the aims, interests, and situations of the activists, communities and individuals involved.

Lessons from the grassroots?
An emerging agenda for
inclusive innovation amongst national and international development agencies has drawn elite attention to grassroots innovation. Grassroots innovation activity attracts interest as both a source of potentially inclusive ideas and practices, worthy of scaling-up, and as a relevant field of experience from which programmes for inclusive innovation might learn.

Research into grassroots innovation movements at the
STEPS Centre and in SPRU for over a decade certainly suggests some relevant lessons. But the most important lessons are not as directly instrumental for inclusive innovation as some agencies might hope. Because whilst there is valuable experience in grassroots innovations, the main lessons from studying this field is that questions about scaling-up inclusive innovation might be misguided, or at least too narrow, and what is really required are answers to questions about opening-up and democratising innovation systems.
There are three motivating questions for the
OECD Symposium. This contribution addresses the second and third of them:

• What are the impacts of innovation and innovation policy on industrial, social and territorial inclusiveness?
• How can inclusive innovation initiatives be expanded to improve welfare and facilitate the democratisation of innovation?
• What are key implications for policy? What can be done to support the successful implementation of novel approaches to policy to effectively support inclusive growth?

My argument is that inclusive innovation may not automatically facilitate the democratisation of innovation. Indeed, the relationship may need to operate the other way: it is difficult to have deep and meaningful inclusion in innovation (and, by implication, fair and just exclusion) without first democratising innovation systems. Problematising question two in this way means that considerations for policies sought in question three begin to look quite different.

Scaling-up processes not objects?
Even if one approaches grassroots innovation with an interest in scaling-up inclusive innovation, further questions soon become apparent. Evidence from our own research does include attempts to develop promising grassroots innovations into scalable forms. Typically, this proceeds through measures to formalise and commercialise the innovation. The facilities and tools of conventional innovation systems are brought to the services of promising grassroots innovators and their innovations: through the provision of research, development and demonstration; assistance with standards procedures; and help securing intellectual property. Investment and marketing assistance is also provided. Amongst the more advanced examples of this is the
National Innovation Foundation in India.

So one can analyse in-depth the processes for developing and marketing goods and services arising from grassroots ingenuity. Models could be developed for inclusive innovations relevant to markets lower down the pyramid. However, this is a view that relates grassroots innovation to inclusion in terms of outputs only. The grassroots furnishes prototypes for the poor; and these are then turned into goods and services for scaling-up, principally by expanding markets. It is also a view that presumes an obvious risk-taking innovator (analogous to a firm or inventor) to support and reward, and an innovation that can be turned into a proprietary object. Of course, the inclusive innovations that result need not be marketed commercially to poorer consumers. Inclusive innovations might become products that are distributed through donor development programmes or social enterprises.

However, one of the key lessons from our research into grassroots innovation movements is that the people involved can be as much concerned about the processes of innovation as they are for the outputs of innovation. Grassroots innovators and their networks want to be involved in prioritising and framing the development issue, making design choices, decisions about evaluative criteria as well as evaluating ‘success’, undertaking further development and production, how investments are made, and any returns distributed or reinvested, as well as other aspects of the innovation process. Grassroots innovators are concerned about the
form, depth, and scope of inclusion in innovation; and they are creating spaces for experimenting with new forms of innovation process.

All of these are concerns that challenge the market-based approach to scaling-up inclusive innovation noted above. A good example here is experience with the
Cisterna programme for rainwater harvesting in Brazil. Cisterna involves the provision of household and larger-scale rainwater collection systems that can store sufficient water for families to get through the dry seasons in semi-arid North-Eastern Brazil. The programme emerged originally as a grassroots innovation. Local activists and engineers pioneered an assisted process for households and communities to build their own systems. It proved to be an innovation popular with communities in the region. Wanting to scale-up the use of rainwater harvesting, the government decided to purchase ready-made, plastic systems for more rapid installation locally.

However, these standard units did not work well in all situations – buckling under the intense heat in some cases. Just as significantly, simply installing this technology provided neither the space nor processes for development workers and local community members to address issues that affect how the systems would be used. Unlike the government view on scaling-up, the grassroots initiative was about more than providing families with water. There was a desire to address local power relations that affected not only access to water (and the injustices arising from reliance on water tanked in by vendors) but expand it to other development issues too. In its original form, Cisterna attempted through the organisation of the self-build process to build up capabilities for addressing social change, thereby giving people the confidence and power to organise themselves, articulate demands, do projects, and co-ordinate their maintenance. Protests in the region subsequently reinstated a self-build track into the programme.

We found a similar difference in breadths of purpose in studying
community energy projects in the UK. Again, the government has noticed grassroots activity and begun developing strategies and support schemes with a view to scaling-up initiatives. Again, however, the schemes are framed quite narrowly, this time around engaging publics in sustainable energy. Our research found the protagonists initiating community energy projects had a wider set of economic, social and political aims. These included building cohesion and solidarity in the community, enhancing the skills and employability of people, asserting ownership and democratic control over local renewable resources, local jobs and economic development, and becoming less reliant on centralised fossil energy. The aims were very context specific and varied project-by-project: contextual sensitivities that the scaling-up of standard community energy models or packages risks losing.

At stake here are differences in
framings of grassroots innovation. A more challenging framing sees grassroots innovation as providing a space for people to experiment, and in so doing build up power to do alternative developments in ways that challenge the structural priorities of incumbent innovation systems. An additional benefit to attending to inclusion in this way is that it opens up space to confront the gender, class, ethnicity, age and other relations that can sometimes be sources of exclusion, even in grassroots initiatives, and to figure out how an innovation process might be accompanied by other changes that ensure a more equitable and inclusive outcome. It has to be remembered that the communities within and across which grassroots innovation happens exhibit (and need to address) inequality, exclusions, and hierarchies just like the wider societies in which they are situated.

Innovation: exclusions, resistance and alternatives
Scaling-up is often seen
in terms of standardising. However, even where the process of standardisation is trying to result in more inclusive outcomes, the process can also exclude other original features. Organic food, for example, was an early grassroots example where organisations like the Soil Association developed standards principally to assure authenticity and help with scaling-up. But what expanded was a set of standard and specific practices for cultivating crops and livestock. Synthetics-free ingredients scaled-up and were inserted into conventional food systems, rather than the original organic movement vision for local food economies based in mixed farms. Insufficient inclusion of the organic food vision prompted a reaction, in the reappearance of more localised organic food provision through box schemes, markets, and so forth. Practices in agro-ecology represent innovations that resist the encroachment of agricultural innovations based in high-input, capital-intense, industrialising food production and consumption. It is difficult to foresee inclusion operating smoothly across these two different worlds of innovation.

Other grassroots innovations arose similarly as ways of contesting the development pathways implied by incumbent innovation systems. As we see in areas of renewable energy now, such as for the Energiewende in Germany, once innovations grow beyond their grassroots origins, and concerns for ownership, empowerment and democratic control become more assertive, then they can present challenges to incumbent groups, and unsettle prevailing power relations. Sometimes, this leads to the co-option and reinvention of the innovation into forms more palatable to incumbents and their innovation systems. We get utility-scale renewable electricity plants rather than the decentralised electricity systems as envisaged by the pioneers under ownership of local communities. What could become inclusive innovation goes awry as the grassroots gets excluded through a scaling-up based in standardisation, loss of context and insufficient attention to power relations.

Debating the democratisation of innovation
So perhaps scaling-up is the wrong question? Scaling-up tends to frame the issue as one of extent and
quantity, which glosses over important points of contestation around directions and qualities of innovation. We need to think more carefully about different kinds of inclusions, various sources of exclusions, plural innovation pathways, and resistance and alternatives to incumbent systems. Moreover, we need to think about inclusion dynamically. Seeing inclusion in terms of correcting an exclusion and bringing (market) access to a service through an innovation, implies quite a settled view on innovation as providing fixes: the situation is ameliorated by a more inclusive provision of goods or service; the included passively welcome the innovation. However, as we see in the case of Cisterna, the intended beneficiaries might not be so pliant, they might demand more, or the innovation experience might reveal further points of contestation and generate new issues relevant to questions of inclusion and exclusion.

The argument made here accords with the symposium identification with supporting the democratisation of innovation, but it suggests such democratisation will not arise automatically through a technical policy framing of the problem in scaling-up inclusive innovations. We need to think about democratising innovation in much more political terms.

How might an agenda based around the democratisation of innovation differ from an inclusive innovation agenda? First and foremost, it would attend to the power relations involved in innovation: the power to do innovation, and power over innovation agendas. The discussion above about scaling-up involves power relations between the grassroots and innovation systems through the way grassroots novelties are selected and developed. Who is in control of these processes? What principles are in play over decisions and selections? Our research finds that grassroots innovators are interested in these questions. In a few cases, they articulate it as a question of democratising innovation, or practicing innovation for social justice. The symposium wants to identify key policy principles for innovation; perhaps they should be democracy and social justice?

Drawing on grassroots debates, then a democratising innovation agenda would address the opening-up of innovation systems. Practically, that means thinking of more democratic arenas for establishing research agendas, funding decisions, universities, research institutes, venture and investment capital, training and skills programmes, prototyping infrastructures, marketing, and so forth. It also means building networks and coalitions between these arenas, where the potential can be demonstrated through acts, amplified by lobbying, and win influence through alliances. These are political challenges about opening-up innovation systems, and making systems accessible to citizens.

The practical challenges are considerable and uncertain. One practical possibility arising from some grassroots initiatives suggests scaling–down innovation systems, and decentralising facilities and institutions to where people live. This has been attempted with science shops and technology networks in the past, for example, and is being explored through fablabs, hackerspaces and similar community-based workshops today. There are other practical steps that could be explored also, but there is not space to develop them here.

Whatever gets considered, experience suggests we need to guard against idealizing grassroots activism in design, experimentation, and development of innovations. People do not respond automatically to the provision of a material facilities and training programmes. The spaces need be in tune with the contexts in which people live: they have to be designed and cultivated carefully, through on-going community development processes. And people have to be supported in gaining confidence within these more structured spaces. Questions of inclusion, exclusion, participation, and so forth are just as pertinent in these grassroots spaces. Issues abound around expertise, knowing how and knowing what, skills, tacit knowledge, and practices that push the scope and flexibility of both high- and low-technological options. The point is that these spaces allow experimentation and learning in democracy itself and what democratising innovation can mean practically.

Some concluding remarks
Words are powerful. They frame thinking and action. Clearly, inclusive innovation is a term motivating a lot of work amongst policy agencies at the moment (responsible innovation and social innovation are other terms keeping agencies busy). The term inclusive innovation provides welcome recognition that the focus and fruits of innovation need to be redirected and redistributed. But it also raises questions about what is being included in innovation.

In this post I have tried to argue that we need to think about alternative terms, such as starting with democratising innovation systems. What might happen if the normative (yet not too threatening) goal of scaling-up inclusive innovation was replaced by aims to open-up innovation systems to more democratic processes? Grassroots innovation experience suggests this is a valid re-framing of the issue.

Arguably, such an opening-up might lead to more diverse, balanced, and distributed innovation systems and economic activity. A wider sense of ownership and empowerment over innovative activity might encourage responsible citizens, whose deliberations could, as some democratic theory argues, generate richer discourses and better decisions about innovation. We’ll only learn whether this is the case or not if we ask the right questions.

This post by is based on Dr Adrian Smith's contribution to a session on ‘scaling up’ at the
OECD Symposium on Innovation and Inclusive Growth in Paris on 20-21 March 2014. The article was originally written as a blog for the STEPS Centre website.

.May Event: the future of Green Architecture

the future of Green Architecture
Retrofitting existing houses and historic buildings. Zero-energy buildings.

Thursday, May 29, 2014, 18:30 - 21:15
Ascension Day / Hemelvaartsdag

Location: Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis, Herengracht 518, 1017 CC Amsterdam [this is not the regular museum entrance]
The conference language is English.

A collaboration between
Geelvinck Museum Hinlopen Huis and the Club of Amsterdam.



The conference language is English.


Fenneken Anneveld-van Wesel, Independent Architecture & Planning Professional
Why modern technique and sustainability are important for the preservation of historic buildings.

Gijs Hoen, Project Leader, Stadsherstel Amsterdam
Monumental buildings: possibilities for a sustainable future

Paul de Ruiter, Architectenbureau Paul de Ruiter bv
Towards a CO2-neutral society

Mathias Lehner, founding partner, lehner gunther
NEXTCity - Biodiversity Design leading to more Quality of Life for all Species

Our Moderator is Tarik Yousif
, Presenter at the Dutch public broadcaster NTR

... and get your tickets

.June Event: the future of Transformation

the future of Transformation

Thursday, June 26, 2014
Registration: 18:30-19:00, Conference: 19:00-21:15

Location: Cabral Gebouw, Cabralstraat 1, 1057 CD Amsterdam (Near Mercatorplein)



The event is supported by the Coop MidWest and the Andragologie Alumni Amsterdam.

Transformation is everywhere. Due to changes in the economy, the climate, technology and lifestyle we are transforming our infrastructure, our houses, our companies our cities and ourselves all the time. This evening we will discuss the future of transformation. Big plans and top down is over, are we ready now for bottom up or are there other strategies to think of?

Evert Verhagen
, founder and owner, Creative Cities
Transformation in cities

Karin Jironet, co-founder of In Claritas
Things change all the time, but sometimes, things will never be the same again.

Louise van Schaik, Senior Research Fellow & Coordinator Global Issues, Governance and Diplomacy, The Clingendael Institute
The politics of climate change

Huseyin R Demirhisar, CIO, Managing Partner, Angel Wings Ventures
The Impact Investment Now!

and our moderator Annegien Blokpoel, CEO, PerspeXo

... and get your tickets

.News from the world of robots

Ultra-fast, the robotic arm catches objects on the fly

Brain-controlled robot exhibited in Beijing

Lionel Messi VS Robot Goalkeeper - Who Is Better?

.Ocean noise – the underestimated disruptive factor

Airgun signals disturb whales across great distances

Airguns can disturb marine mammals at distances as far away as 2,000 kilometres says a new study by the
Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and deteriorate both the physical and psychological well-being of the animals. Maria Krautzberger, President of UBA, said: “Noise pollution in the oceans is increasing and seems on course to continue, for one because of the expected exploration for natural resources in the world’s oceans. Airguns are a key factor in this context. Their sound bursts can severely impair the communication of blue and fin whales – in the worst case, across the entire distance of an ocean.” This would also occur if airguns were used for scientific purposes only. Airguns were developed to search the bottoms of the ocean for oil and gas stores.

It is absolutely vital for whales to perceive their environment acoustically because they use their ears to “see”. If acoustic signals are masked, their “field of vision” is reduced and it can harm the biological fitness (physical and mental condition) of marine mammals such as the blue whale and fin whale. Nowadays man-made underwater noise is a virtually constant reality in all oceans. Shipping traffic is a source of chronic noise which has a high “masking potential”. Masking means an overlapping of sound signals. An intended signal of communication between marine mammals is covered up, or acoustically masked, by an interfering signal. Such interfering signals come from airguns which are used to explore the ocean floor. These signals are much louder and often much shorter than typical ship noise. It has long been suspected that these loud seismic signals can damage the hearing of marine mammals since these sound bursts can be 1,000 times louder than a ship. Underwater noise can also interfere with communication between marine mammals and their perception of other sounds in their environment. Whales depend on these signals, for example to find food or a mate.

The new UBA study shows that airgun signals can have an impact at distances of up to at least 2,000 kilometres (km). This can affect animals living within the Antarctic Specially Protected Areas located south of 60° south, even airguns are in use on ships located north of 60° latitude. Airgun signals can evolve into intermittent noise with high masking potential already at medium distances of 500 to 1,000 km. At distances of over 1,000 km the airgun bursts can develop into continuous noise. This results in a loss of the natural communication distance of blue and fin whales in Antarctica, reducing it to about one per cent of its original range.

The results of the UBA study show that masking effects and significant impact on the vocalisations of animals are possible across great distances and must be taken into consideration in the environmental impact assessment of impulsive sound sources like airguns. The model in this project will be further developed in a follow-up project which will enable applicability to other habitats. These habitats include the Arctic, which is expected to experience a lot of use of airguns to image the ocean floor for mineral resources and for research purposes. UBA's President Maria Krautzberger said: "We must know exactly what the effects of sound waves from airguns are on marine mammals and take this into account in the environmental assessment of marine research. We therefore need an international noise action plan, perhaps in the framework of the Antarctic Treaty System."

The German Federal Ministry for Environment put into force a noise action plan for the North Sea on 1 December 2013. It enables the sustainable development of offshore wind power in Germany. The aim is to protect the native porpoise against noise, in particular when rearing its young. Noise is caused when foundation piles for wind turbines are driven into the seabed.

The airguns used for underground exploration are essentially metal cylinders charged with high-pressure air which is then fired in bursts similar to an explosion. The burst creates an air bubble which generates a very short but very loud sound signal. Most of the acoustic signals emitted from airguns are in the low frequency range of up to 300 Hertz, making an overlap with the sounds and vocalisations of whales and seals probable. The baleen, blue and fin whale common to the Antarctic Sea communicate by and large in this frequency range.

Further information
Complete report on UBA study Assessment of potential for masking in marine mammals of the Antarctic exposed to underwater sound from airguns

.Club of Amsterdam blog

Club of Amsterdam blog

Socratic Design
by Humberto Schwab, Philosopher, Owner, Humberto Schwab Filosofia SL, Director, Club of Amsterdam

The Ukrainian Dilemma and the Bigger Picture
by Hardy F. Schloer, Owner, Schloer Consulting Group - SCG, Advisory Board of the Club of Amsterdam

The impact of culture on education
by Huib Wursten, Senior Partner, itim International and
Carel Jacobs is senior consultant/trainer for itim in The Netherlands, he is also Certification Agent for the Educational Sector of the Hofstede Centre.

What more demand for meat means for the future
by Christophe Pelletier, The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Inner peace and generosity
by Elisabet Sahtouris,
Holder of the Elisabet Sahtouris Chair in Living Economies, World Business Academy

... and many more contributions.

.News about the Future

Proterra Sets Record for Most Miles Traveled in a Day by a Battery-Electric Transit Bus

A bus built by Proterra has set a record for the most miles traveled by a battery-electric bus in a day – traveling more than 700 miles in 24 hours. Equally impressive is the fact that on this trip the bus recorded an average fuel economy of nearly 27 miles per gallon – nearly six times that of a diesel bus and seven times that of CNG. The record was set as part of normal testing conducted on Proterra buses before they are delivered.

Cultured meat: every village its own factory?

Rising global demand for meat will result in increased environmental pollution, energy consumption, and animal suffering. Cultured meat, produced in an animal-cell cultivation process, is a technically feasible alternative lacking these disadvantages, provided that an animal-component-free growth medium can be developed. Small-scale production looks particularly promising, not only technologically but also for societal acceptance.

"We believe that cultured meat is part of the future," said Prof. Dr. Cor van der Weele of Wageningen University in The Netherlands. "Other parts of the future are partly substituting meat with vegetarian products, keeping fewer animals in better circumstances, perhaps eating insects, etc. This discussion is certainly part of the future in that it is part of the search for a 'protein transition.' It is highly effective in stimulating a growing awareness and discussion of the problems of meat production and consumption."

.Recommended Book

Social Innovation: Solutions for a Sustainable Future (CSR, Sustainability, Ethics & Governance)
by Thomas Osburg (Editor), René Schmidpeter (Editor)

Social Innovation is becoming an increasingly important topic in our global society. Those organizations which are able to develop business solutions to the most urgent social and ecological challenges will be the leading companies of tomorrow. Social Innovation not only creates value for society but will be a key driver for business success. Although the concept of Social Innovation is discussed globally the meaning and its impact on the development of new business strategies is still heavily on debate. This publication has the goal to give a comprehensive overview of different concepts in the very innovative field of Social Innovation, from a managerial as well as from a theoretical and social perspective. Over 30 leading thinkers in the field of Innovation, Strategic Management and Organizational Development give a well structured inside on the latest developments and progress in the field of Social Innovation. Thereby the authors not only develop a comprehensive and unique analysis on the state-of-the art of social innovation but also give practical advice and information to business leaders on how to apply the latest management thinking on Social Innovation to daily business decisions. This publication has the intention to become a milestone in the further development of the concept of Social Innovation as well as to further stimulate new business strategies necessary to overcome world most pressing social and ecological challenges.

.Socratic Design

by Humberto Schwab
Philosopher, Owner, Humberto Schwab Filosofia SL
, Director, Club of Amsterdam

You can only design when you now from where, towards what and for what reasons.

Socratic Design is a radical way of changing our paradigms, the way we think and the way we live. We need a radical approach because the soft, step by step, way does not bring us further. We are still heading full speed towards different crises. At the same time there is a lot of innovative intelligence, why are we so powerless?

The simple answer is, because we are looking in the wrong corner and in the wrong way. It is not the world we have to change; we have to transform our way of thinking, acting and feeling. We are addicted to old ideas, old thoughts and old feelings. Our mind is not a free sweeping rational engine, nor is the world around us a fixed entity of stable facts. Both are deep fallacies. So if we innovate with our old mind still intact, we will just reproduce more of the same in a different format! You can dress it up but that does not change the content.

Socratic Design is a program of awareness and of an action transformation for business, organizations and individuals. It makes us aware that everything around us (all that is touched by men), is designed. The world is designed according to assumptions, a world view and paradigms. In the Socratic practice we identify these and analyze them with scrutiny. In Socratic philosophy we have the tools to execute this analysis consequently and consistently.

The objects, the buildings, and the very infrastructure of our society are based on assumptions. For example, the house is built on the assumption that we want to live privately, that we want to separate sleeping and eating, that we want to protect ourselves and our possessions with doors, locks, gates etc. Each of these assumptions leans on deeper assumptions. That we lock the doors, assumes that people will probably act as thieves, this assumes that people are selfish or ego oriented. The world around us is built on this assumption, all the design that surrounds us is suffused with this approach. All governmental programs will be based on the assumption that this is the true nature of man.

In Socratic practice we can de-construct even the most hidden assumptions. An example is the assumption that all that is abstract has more truth than what is concrete and personal. The more something is distanced from you, the more objective it is. What you experience is just your opinion - what really is true is the generalization, abstracted from personal experience.

Even small things like pencils, or chairs or clothes are designed and thus contain the same assumptions. Cultural fallacies (false assumptions) are stored away hidden in our things that surround us. But here comes the devil: the surroundings determine our inner way of thinking, conditioning our thoughts and our feelings. If you as a child, were to walk around in a school full of cameras, security doors, bullet proof glass and permanent monitoring, you would start to think, feel and act as a criminal.

If you enter a hotel where they offer free drinking from the minibar as much as you like, most of us (not all) will feel very responsible and act moderately. If I approach pupils as managers of their learning process, giving them all the responsibility, they will act accordingly.

So we are not independent, rational agents (cultural fallacy): we are dependent on the environment we design ourselves. How best then, to break out of this vicious circle of reproducing new thoughts that will only perpetuate old assumptions?

Even more disturbing is the fact that we think that we are thinking, but most of the time we are rehearsing the same thoughts over and over again. It would be better to use the word "thought" as the past tense of "to think" instead of the present tense, because that is what we mostly do!

The endorphin brain system gives us a release of nice "feeling", when we have these same old thoughts over and over again. Thanks to this reward we get the impression that we really are thinking while the thoughts "run us".

Socratic Design establishes a sensitive environment to engage in "deep listening" by Socratic dialog. These Socratic dialogs transform us from ego and ratio oriented atoms into a collective sensitive mind that is capable of "listening" to the deepest human values and needs. This method guarantees a higher level of thinking. It frees us from the old addictive neuron-circuits, because each individual mind is "forced" to leave that behind.

This sensitive collective organ is the producer of instantaneous wisdom, capable of creating genuinely real knowledge. This knowledge is concrete, personal and built on questions about our values, our authentic needs and on our vision of a good life.

It is astonishing how many great minds, CEOs, leaders and politicians decrease their thinking quality-once they've reached their chosen field: they just retreat in to rehearsing admittedly very clever thoughts that got them there in the first place.

It is not their fault; the top has to broadcast messages that fit in the paradigm of the organization. So we absorb, like the kid in the school, the narrative of the company, and begin to live in it in a subconscious way.

The exciting thing about Socratic dialog is that we have to create knowledge each time again from scratch. Knowledge is the way we create the world around us every second. There are no facts; you see what you are focused on. So if we could start really thinking with these clever minds we would really be free of old "coal and steel" thoughts and get into "grafeen design"!

Real thinking is the state-of-the-art creative process. As such, we should only design things and practices when we are at our sharpest that means when we are in this super collaborative state of practical wisdom.

Socratic Design uses the deepest thoughts of the participants; they bear a lot of tacit knowledge, by making this explicit to the group, we leave procedures knowledge (which often does not match reality) behind and show what we really do; the teacher telling what teaching really is about, instead of using a didactic model, the furniture maker showing how to use the tools. Tacit knowledge contains values, practices, feelings that cannot be gathered by abstract information management or so called knowledge management!

Socratic Design does two things: It gets people in a listening mode out of their own circular thoughts by strong moderation AND creates knowledge which starts from universal basic questions. At the end of the day everything boils down to the question "How do we want to live?" or "What is a good life?"

A product, a service or an application is always related to this question (Undoubtedly, kids would answer the question about a good life: with the Lego game).

For a company to create good stuff, the leader has to be a multiplier in creative thinking, enabling communication and freeing the company from bigotry and fear of leaving the comfort zone. We rigorously analyze the assumptions and narratives of a person or organization, we bring out tacit knowledge, and we create a landscape of values. Within this moral and aesthetic landscape, we design and fashion new assumptions and best practices into a new paradigm. Thanks to Socratic dialog, we can leave old assumptions and thoughts behind. This paradigm contains designed narratives about human beings and their lives. The vision or paradigms include new forms of language (words create our factual world), good organization based on narratives, strong procedures and continuous organized intelligence through dialog.

We ourselves can design our lives ourselves towards our biggest goals from deepest human values.

.Futurist Portrait: Jeremy Rifkin

Jeremy Rifkin is the bestselling author of twenty books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. His books have been translated into more than thirty five languages and are used in hundreds of universities, corporations and government agencies around the world.

Mr. Rifkin is the founder and president of The Foundation on Economic Trends in Bethesda, MD. The Foundation examines the economic, environmental, social and cultural impacts of new technologies introduced into the global economy.

Jeremy Rifkin has been an advisor to the European Union for the past decade. Mr. Rifkin also served as an adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Jose Socrates of Portugal, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, and Prime Minister Janez Janša of Slovenia, during their respective European Council Presidencies, on issues related to the economy, climate change, and energy security. He currently advises the European Commission, the European Parliament, and several EU and Asian heads of state.

Mr. Rifkin is the principle architect of the European Union's Third Industrial Revolution long-term economic sustainability plan to address the triple challenge of the global economic crisis, energy security, and climate change. The Third Industrial Revolution was formally endorsed by the European Parliament in 2007 and is now being implemented by various agencies within the European Commission as well as in the 27 member-states.

Recent Books


"Our way of life is likely to be more fundamentally transformed in the next few decades than in the previous 1,000 years. Food and fiber will likely be grown indoors in giant bacteria baths, partially eliminating the farmer and the soil for the first time in history. Animal and human cloning could be commonplace, with "replication" increasingly replacing "reproduction." Millions of people could obtain a detailed genetic readout of themselves, allowing them to gaze into their own biological future and predict and plan their lives in ways never before possible. Parents may choose to have their children conceived in test-tubes and gestated in artificial wombs outside the human body. Genetic changes could be made in human fetuses to correct deadly diseases and disorders and enhance mood, behavior, intelligence and physical traits."

"We need to move beyond the delusion of retraining for a dwindling number of mass wage labor jobs, and begin to ponder the unthinkable - to prepare ourselves and our institutions for a world that is phasing out mass employment in the production and marketing of goods and services. Redefining the role of the individual in a near workerless society is likely to be the most pressing issue in the decades to come."

"Europe has become a giant laboratory for rethinking humanity's future. In many respects, the European Dream is the mirror opposite of the American Dream. While the American Dream emphasizes economic growth and individual opportunity, the European Dream focuses more on sustainable development, and the quality of life. We Americans emphasize the work ethic. Europeans place more of a premium on balancing work and leisure. America has always seen itself as a great melting pot. Europeans, instead, prefer to preserve their rich multicultural diversity. We believe in maintaining a strong military presence in the world. Europeans, by contrast, emphasize economic cooperation and consensus over traditional geo-political approaches to foreign policy."

Jeremy Rifkin "The Zero Marginal Cost Society"

Jeremy Rifkin on the Fall of Capitalism and the Internet of Things


Season Events 2013 / 2014

NEXT Event

May 29, 2014
the future of Green Architecture
Retrofitting existing houses and historic buildings. Zero-energy buildings.

May 29, 2014, 18:30 - 21:15
Ascension Day / Hemelvaartsdag

Location: Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis, Herengracht 518, 1017 CC Amsterdam
[this is not the regular museum entrance]
A collaboration between Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis and the Club of Amsterdam


June 26, 2014
the future of Transformation
June 26, 2014, 18:30 - 21:15

Location: Cabral Gebouw, Cabralstraat 1, 1057 CD Amsterdam (Near Mercatorplein)
The event is supported by the Coop MidWest and the Andragologie Alumni Amsterdam.

.Special Supporters


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