In recent years, a variety of forces (economic, environmental, and social) have quickly given rise to “shared mobility,” a collective of entrepreneurs and consumers leveraging technology to share transportation resources, save money, and generate capital. Bikesharing services, such as BCycle, and business-to-consumer carsharing services, such as Zipcar, have become part of a sociodemographic trend that has pushed shared mobility from the fringe to the mainstream. The role of shared mobility in the broader landscape of urban mobility has become a frequent topic of discussion. Shared transportation modes—such as bikesharing, carsharing, ridesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs), and microtransit—are changing how people travel and are having a transformative effect on smart cities.
The Coin to the Kingdom: Re-THNKing Capitalism as a Key to the Housing Crisis
According to provocateur and THNK alumni Michell Zappa, “an industry-toppling, government-shifting, sector-disrupting revolution is underway. Think Napster, but bigger.” You’ve probably felt the undercurrents. Yet as economic waves rock the boat of capitalism, many are unprepared for what’s next. Excitement and fear mix as so-called sharing economies, shifts in philanthropy and alternative currencies emerge, balancing possibilities with the untested nature of new models. Capitalism as we know it, even money itself, is one of the most complex systems mankind has ever created. And part of the problem we face, as our world is bending and breaking, is how to describe the relationships between systems – they are nested, intertwined, interdependent, and deeply emergent. From a cultural and emotional perspective, we sense the inadequacy of our financial systems but often feel powerless to change something that feels monstrous and unshakable, yet everywhere we turn our attention to we can find signs of change.
So, in my role as the Director of the Challenge track at THNK’s newly launched Vancouver campus, I couldn’t wait to dive into examining the Future of Capital(ism). THNK School of Creative Leadership is a C School that combines venture design and innovation leadership and focuses on action and implementation. We take the best from business schools and design schools to create a greater sum: truly transformational creative leadership to build human-centered systems for a better future. Within this journey, the Challenge is a 6-month effort that takes a humble, curious, and forward-looking cohort, a global network with a shared intention for impact, and trains them in a structured approach to human-centered creativity using a topic of deep societal relevance.
Envisioning a Better Future and Orchestrating Creative Teams
We begin by co-creating a moonshot vision to align our efforts and help us determine some of the most promising areas for exploration. We tap into a diverse ecosystem, inviting subject matter experts, rabble rousers, and master practitioners to roll up their sleeves – an incredible group rallied around the Future of Capitalism, out of which emerged our Innovation Partners on this initial challenge cycle: the City of Vancouver and the Digital Finance Institute. These partners bring a rich depth of knowledge, broad networks that can be harnessed, and platforms for rolling out concepts with promise. They collaborated on shaping the brief and, after much deliberation, we decided to use the Vancouver housing market as a petri dish for discovery, asking “how might alternative and digital currencies increase access to affordable low-carbon housing for those in need?”. The profound ripple effects from the current housing crisis are being felt well beyond Vancouver, and the aim with all of our Innovation Challenge work is to use a local context to drive global learnings.
With teams that sound like they could have been the set-up to a bad joke (an accountant, a restaurateur, and a creative director walk into a leadership school…), the cohort examined the needs of varied demographics, from vulnerable populations to mid-to-low income families. They interrogated data around perceptions of “green” housing options, changing patterns of ownership and engagement with living spaces – from co-housing to nomadic living – and the impact these shifts are having on property development. Participants from around the globe tore apart existing financial vehicles tied to earning equity in housing, models of developing and recouping energy upgrades, and assumptions underpinning ideas of community development – from the potential of smart multi-generational housing blocks to how community assets are often undervalued. The outcomes of this process are a first step towards driving breakthrough change and fashioning a future of capitalism predicated on the belief that “we’re all better off when we’re all better off,” as THNK Forum Guest, Eric Liu, so plainly remarked.
Turning One Small Step into One Giant Leap
During the next several years, across 6-month program cycles in Vancouver and Amsterdam, THNK is uniquely positioned to continue convening diverse groups of changemakers around examining, reframing, and driving societal impact. But impact is more likely when we join forces with exceptional Innovation Partners to drive new thinking around how we can become positive participants in the marketplace by harnessing the technological and complex dynamic cultural forces shaping these systems. While growing disparities in income and access cause global upheaval and strife, we see the renewed focus on our interdependent financial future as a massive opportunity for those bold enough to dive in. As encouraged as I am by the team triumphs, concepts and momentum, this is but a first milestone in service of a much larger vision – catalyzing this kind of change requires commitment, support, and evangelists. We and our Partners and Participants are in for the long-haul, and we hope you’ll join us!
Find out more about what we’ve discovered around how fintech and alternative financial models are impacting urban landscapes and providing surprising hope for global communities at our Digital Finance, Alternative Currencies and Housing in Vancouver panel at 2:25pm on Thursday, October 22nd at Meeting of the Minds (or check out the live webcast).
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Read more from the CityMinded.org Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
A study by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2008 found that the impact of routine weather events on the US economy equates annually to about 3.4% of the country’s GDP (about $485 billion). This excludes the impact of extreme weather events that cause damage and disruption – after all, even “ordinary” weather affects supply of and demand for many items, and the propensity of businesses and consumers to buy them. NCAR found that mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with utilities and retail not far behind.
Many of these, disaster management included, are the focus of smart city innovations. Not surprisingly, therefore, as they seek to improve and optimize these systems, smart cities are beginning to understand the connection between weather and many of their goals. A number of vendors (for example, IBM, Schneider Electric, and others) now offer weather data-driven services focused specifically on smart city interests.
Urban Planning Today: Perception vs. Reality When the planning profession was still nascent in the 1950’s, well defined social needs and the desire to improve poor living conditions were the dominant basis for policy and regulation. By the time the 1970’s and 80’s...