Opening Speech at G3iD

This was the opening speech at the Geneva Global Goals Innovation Day, co-written and delivered by the two co-presidents of the G3iD association, Vivian Marcelino and Paul Bristow.  The Geneva Global Goals Innovation Day was held on March 24th, 2017

When the Sustainable Development Goals, also known as Global Goals, were launched by the United Nations back at the end of 2015, the UN called upon people everywhere to take action.  A loosely coupled bunch of innovators here in Geneva heard that call and decided to do something about it.   

This group  – us – from some of the faster moving UN institutions, social impact hubs and new fablabs – thought that through innovation we could help International Geneva to become more effective:  To do more, and achieve more, with less but together.

During our co-creation sessions we found our dream: To transform Geneva into the “Silicon Valley of Sustainable & Humanitarian Development”,solving real problems, generating real social impact, and helping achieve the SDGs.

Because when you look at Geneva, it is unique in the world. Here, we have the international organisations and NGOs, we have the private sector, from start-ups to sector leaders,  we have investors and we have the innovation ecosystem. Moreover,  we have a multinational & multidisciplinary richness of cultures like almost nowhere else in the world.  

The SDGs are different from the millennium development goals – they apply to every country – to every person.  So why not treat the SDGs as a set of targets for Geneva.  We could become an example for the world.  And if not here, where?

The Geneva Global Goals Innovation Day (G3iD) is intended as a catalyst to get started. We understand that innovation is not just about technology. It is about new ways of doing things. Today, we bring together the multiple actors of the local and international Geneva to explore innovative solutions and new ways of working together towards the global goals.

To foster collaboration between us all, our first theme for the day is co-creation; the art of making better solutions by getting multidisciplinary teams to work together.

We know that this is a great way to achieve our second theme for today, acceleration.  We started by asking ourselves what would happen if we tried to speed up – for example trying to achieve the SDGs by 2020.  We lived this for ourselves In the G3iD project.  With a team of volunteers, starting with only 150 francs, we made all this happen in 8 months, so we know that this can be done.  

Our third theme is scaling.  We’ve started in Geneva but we are talking about the global goals. So as you go around and look at the more than one hundred solutions here today, think about how you can help them scale up  to generate the global impact needed to achieve the SDGs.

We think that if we pull together, we can treat these 17 goals as a set of tick boxes.  Let’s get these out the way, and then by 2030 we will need to co-create new goals – perhaps around Space Exploration, Artificial Intelligence, & Cyborg Rights, because these 17 goals about making our world a better place for all will be done.

But, even we’re not crazy enough to think we can achieve the SDGs in one day, so we would also like to start co-creating with you the the future of our SDG innovation ecosystem here in Geneva. All of us are actors of change and together we can achieve so much more. Each and every one of us should be an SDG innovator.

We thank you for joining us here today! Moreover, we thank those without whom G3iD would be nothing but a crazy idea. In every new movement, we need leaders. But we also need supporters. So we would like to thank the organizations who have helped to make G3iD a reality.

Our trailblazer supporters: The International Trade Centre, Impact Hub Geneva, THE Port Association, Pangloss Labs, Aprés-Genève and the Global Humanitarian Lab.

And our sponsors: the Barrett Values Centre, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ville de Geneve and the Canton de Geneve, and the Confederation Suisse.   We also thank the more than 100 organizations here today co-creating the first ever Geneva Global Goals Innovation Day, and all of you have have accepted our invitation to be an innovator for a day.  

Thank you!

Scenario: Life in the Year 2100

Energy and Living Well

Life in the year 2100 is all about energy. No, that’s no longer true. It’s about living well.

We had to completely reinvent civilization in the face of fossil-fuel shortages and increasing climate change. Permaculture become the basis of our new sustainable civilization.

Housing looks familiar, if a little fatter with all the insulation that was added. The retrofit passivhaus concept went global as energy prices rose. These days, excess energy is very expensive, but for most people it just doesn’t matter. Most communities are locally self-sufficient. Everyone grows food using permaculture principles. Agricultural monoculture became deeply unfashionable during the great GM disease outbreaks of the 2030s.

During the chaos, we were

Is Lake Geneva ready to make stuff again?

Globalisation only flows one way. At least that’s the experience of the last 30 years. Manufacturing fled Europe, looking for more and more economies of scale, making millions of identical objects for the cheapest possible price.

Mass manufacturing has changed the world, but every process comes to an end. When something becomes “the only way to do things”, innovation kicks in and find a alternative.

Open Source distributed manufacturing is that alternative. New, open source technologies have reduced the costs of machinery by a factor of tens to hundreds. Things that were complicated and expensive, like accurate positioning in 3D space, have become trivially simple and ridiculously cheap. The result is that it has become much less expensive to make individual customised objects – something that mass manufacturing cannot do at all.

FabLabs are described as a place when you can make “almost anything”. We know what the things we cannot yet make are, and many of the projects in these spaces are open source machines to overcome these limitations. Just in the last two years we have seen machines for knitting clothes, printing fabrics, printing concrete, and laminating wood/carbon fibre composites, as well as DNA sequencers, projects to grow bricks, produce all sorts of energy efficient vehicles, and build your own energy efficient houses.

These projects are not developed by individual geniuses in their garages. The internet was designed as a collaborative tool, and has delivered magnificently. Local communities of people interested in making things have found each other online, and joined together to create physical spaces where they can collaborate together. These projects, in turn collaborate online in globe-spanning open source projects, creating amazing collaborative answers to problems that might not be solved in any other way.

Right now it’s not for replacing the things you can buy in the shops, more for replacing the things you cannot buy in the shops. How often have you searched and not found the thing you were looking for? Simply not been able to buy a spare part, or not found a table the right size in the right wood. Those are the sorts of things maker-spaces can produce using parametric design and shared resources.

In twenty years the very idea that you would buy something that is the same thing that any of your neighbours have will seem quaint, like Henry Ford’s “any color you like as long as it’s black”. You will be able to easily customise the object you want to suit your exact needs and have it quickly manufactured in your local fabrication centre. Or have a brand new thing designed just for you from scratch using open source tools, technologies and techniques.

Around Lake Geneva, this is a work-in-progress. On the 27th of June 2015, the makers of the Lac Leman region unified for the first time to put on the “Leman Make” Festival. At the start, we knew of two hackerspaces in the region. One year later we had dozens of local fabrication spaces involved in the festival, all of whom were making stuff right here.

Technology should be a slave, not a master. It’s time it stopped being exclusive – something for other people far away to master – came back home, and was made accessible to everyone. As children we were all taught to share, and it turns out that sharing really can change the world for the better.

So the answer to the question “is Lake Geneva ready to make stuff again?” is definitely a resounding yes. We hope you’ll join in.

The Leman Make Festival 27/28th of June

Gadget Guru is a short weekly radio show on World Radio Switzerland that I do with Tony Johnston.

Here’s the show from June 23rd, 2015:

Links for this show:

Most of the links are in French, but the vast majority of the makers at the festival speak English too (and many other languages – we’re a mixed bunch!)

The Leman Make website and Facebook group.