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.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
The COVID-19 pandemic underlined the need for fast, intelligent, and sophisticated decision-making in government. Now, as cities, states, regions, and nations look to the future, they are harnessing the power of interactive 3D virtual twins to help them plan, develop, and test strategies to support their recovery and build resilience for meeting future crises.
I spoke recently with Jacques Beltran from Dassault Systemes about how the crisis has been an accelerator for cities and public agencies to implement digitization strategies. He’s an experienced public servant now working with cities to address their data needs. He shares some relevant examples of how cities in Europe were lagging one to two months behind what was really occurring on the ground. I am particularly impressed by their work to build a virtual twin of the city’s concert hall to simulate coughing, masks, and other conditions to plan a safe reopening. They found some very surprising findings. They also worked at a regional scale to predict and visualize viral spread to anticipate hospital capacity a month ahead – a key tool for regional officials. The use of virtual twins are extensive for cities.
Since historically marginalized communities are already being disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am frustrated to see these communities also negatively impacted by the lack of on-the-ground public engagement. While I realize the threat of COVID-19 and the associated restrictions make conducting on-the-ground public engagement challenging, I want to encourage fellow planners to think more creatively. I will admit that I struggled to think creatively when I first heard that Clackamas Community College (CCC) would continue having mostly online classes in Spring Term 2021. CCC has had mostly online classes since the end of Winter Term 2020 when COVID-19 first started impacting Oregon. CCC’s decision about Spring Term 2021 became more stressful when Clackamas County staff told me that public outreach for their new shuttles could not be delayed until next summer.