A Great Transformation

iStock_000004882942Small.jpgAs my own work enters a new and exciting phase, I find myself considering three intersecting and co-evolving forces: the Obama Moment, the New Great Transformation and the Social Web. I see signals in these forces of a new resilience just when we most need it.

The convergence of these forces in the context of tremendous global economic, environmental and political uncertainty signals an opportunity for renewal by change-makers, social innovators and social entrepreneurs for the benefit of us all. The complexity of the world requires better solutions, and we know from the open innovation literature that the ideas we need today do not live within a single organization.

Is this a truly transformative moment at a critical point in human history? Is a new social, economic, environmental and cultural resilience possible, or will status quo forces reassert themselves?

Full essay after the jump…

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Metronauts! Explorers of the future of urban transportation

I am proud to announce the launch of a new online community and a series of Transit Camp style events across the Greater Toronto region. The stewards are really excited to launch this new project, which builds upon the success of 2007’s Toronto Transit Camp and takes it to new places and new audiences. Join the community.


What is a Metronaut?

Metronauts.ca is an open community of people from across the sprawling greater Toronto region who care about the future of their cities. Metronauts are explorers of the future form of our cities and the role transportation has in our lives.

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Accelerating the TransitCamp community!

Pleased with the validation of having our TransitCamp article published in Harvard Business Review (co-authored by Eli, Jay and I), we were looking for ways to continue to develop the TransitCamp community from that first event exactly 1 year ago. We wanted to spread the idea far and wide. Well, it looks like we’ll have our wish – and on a bigger scale than we were imagining.

On the anniversary of the first TransitCamp, I am excited to announce that Remarkk! Consulting, working with a stellar cast from the TransitCamp and OpenCities communities, has been engaged by Metrolinx (aka, the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority) in order to adapt and extend the TransitCamp community across the vast city-region of the GTA and Hamilton and from transit into all aspects of integrated regional mobility, including roads, bike routes and pedestrian experiences.

What is TransitCamp?

TransitCamp is a solutions playground, not a complaints department. TransitCamp is an open creative community.

As described in the Harvard Business Review article [Sick Transit Gloria], we will use open source tools (including unconferences) to bring together community members from across the GTA and Hamilton to participate in intense, participatory and fun face-to-face and online happenings to reimagine the future of the region’s transportation system. This will be, above all, a community-led experience. While we are helping to build the platforms, it is people passionate about transit and transportation issues in the region who will provide the content.

We were delighted to discover that Rob MacIsaac, Chair of Metrolinx and the Metrolinx planning and communications staff are open to new ideas and approaches. The community will have an unprecedented opportunity to contribute to the future of the region in a very tangible way. Metrolinx is responsible for developing an integrated Regional Transportation Plan in 2008 and is the Ontario government agency responsible for deploying at least $17 billion in new capital to projects across the region.

But this is a Camp, so it’s not all serious. We’re also going to have a lot of Campy fun. There will be accordions and chickens and other mayhem.

When is the next TransitCamp?

No date has been set just yet, but we would like to have the next TransitCamp in March. Watch this space! We are planning a series of TransitCamps across the GTA, so we can look forward to doing more than just one event over the coming months.

How do you get involved?

  1. Join the TransitCamp Google Group. You will receive updates from the organizers, and also be able to join the discussion and participate in the design of the unconference experience. (Twitterers can follow here. You can also join the Facebook group.)
  2. Read about the original TransitCamp experience from February 2007. There are many links of interest on this wiki page.
  3. Check out the Regional Transportation Plan papers on the Metrolinx site and start imagining the future.
  4. Participate!

What does participation mean?

Help us design the events and the online community spaces and help fill them with your aspirations, ideas and passions. Tell us what you would like to do together as a community.

You can leave comments on this blog post, or start a thread on the Google Group, or blog about it, share videos, photos – express yourself! (tag: transitcamp).

If TransitCamp is a solutions playground, every game on the playground needs basic rules so that the participants can have the best play possible. What kinds of games would you design?

Who is already involved?

Eli Singer; Jay Goldman; Sean Howard; Misha Glouberman; Michele Perras; Daniel Rose; David Eaves; Mark Surman; David Crow; Jed Kilbourn (don’t worry, we’ll get him a blog soon); and soon many others….

FAQ Links:

What is an unconference?

Why “unconferences” are fun conferences

What is a wiki?

Harvard Business Review Breakthrough Idea: Toronto TransitCamp


Along with my co-authors Jay Goldman and Eli Singer, I am proud to announce the publication of our article titled Sick Transit Gloria in the February issue of Harvard Business Review. The article shares the story of Toronto TransitCamp with a general business audience and is included in the 2008 edition of HBR’s annual The HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas section. There are many great ideas in there, so do yourself a favour and pick up a copy. (TransitCamp is also nominated by BlogTO in the Best of Independent Toronto Survey. Vote here!)

This short piece tells the tale of a community and a public agency coming together to solve problems in an innovative new way, using social web technology, social media and design methods together with the Barcamp unconference framework. The approach helped to shift the relationship between the organization and its customers and community stakeholders. That organization was the Toronto Transit Commission and the event and the open creative community that emerged from it was called Toronto TransitCamp. You can read the article in Harvard Business Review, or visit this wiki page for links that provide a comprehensive overview of the background, the design, the experience, the media coverage, the conceptual foundations and the influence of TransitCamp.

The authors want to make clear that while our names may appear in the byline of the article, the ideas and the event itself come from a community of participants and peers. We were also inspired by many talented global thought leaders. We would like to acknowledge these contributions and inspirations here: Continue reading “Harvard Business Review Breakthrough Idea: Toronto TransitCamp”

Votorola: the “unelection”

A recurring theme in the “Social Web 101” presentations I give from time to time is that the social web phenomenon and “new media” in general are fundamentally many-to-many media, and all too often misunderstood by those raised in the mass media era. The social web is fundamentally the web as participation platform, not as distribution platform. This has huge implications to systems of production, expressions of culture, the evolution of our values and notions of citizenship.

So what is the future for participatory democracy in a social web world? What new possibilities are emerging and how do we think about them politically?

Michael Allan is exploring one possibility with an open source software project, Votorola, which embraces the concept of participation and applies it to the electoral system in a radically new way:

Votorola is software for hosting open elections. It implements an electoral system that sits outside of government and beyond the control of parties. Its voter lists are backed by a trust network that is rooted in community neighbourhoods. It enables voters to advance their own candidates for public office, their own policies for executive action, and their own legislative bills for statutory law.

There are a couple of radical ideas in Michael’s design. The first is, the delegate cascade. (Imagine the Iowa caucuses, with infinitely recursive delegate haggling.) The second I’d describe as the unelection (as in unconference), in that elections can take place anytime, all the time, and without official sanction by the state or political parties and with your vote selections made publicly and transparently. (See, I told you it was radical!) More…

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