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!

Open Source Modular Design for the Circular Economy: The Business Benefits

When we talk about the circular economy, we often talk about encouraging materials cycles, similar to those in nature. This analogy works great for materials recycling but, breaks down if we think about modular design. We can’t remove the branches of a tree, and rearrange them to make two smaller trees. But with modular design of technology, facilitated by an open source approach, we could do the equivalent – and it could lead to a new way of doing business.

In product design, practitioners aim for design for manufacturability. In high value products, we may design for serviceability. When it comes to the circular economy, we need to design for reusability. That is, the ability at the end of the service life of a product, to disassemble it into useful parts that can be directly reused in another product.

A simple example from today’s products would be

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

Thoughts after my Permaculture Design Course

It’s interesting watching yourself have your own world view changed.

As I drove to Steve and Fiona Hansons “Permaculture Eden” for my two week design course, I was wondering if after two weeks I’d finally know what to plant with what. I guess I had permaculture fixated in my head as “hippy gardening”, and the only reason I was really going was because the Transition Handbook strongly suggested it was a good thing to do.

I’ve always liked nature – I enjoy hiking on mountains and in forests, but I guess I viewed it as a kind of nice to have thing. Great to get into, but nothing to do with the real world of people.

Then came the two week immersion, with a fantastic group of intelligent people, coming at the whole topic from different angles. We had different cultures, ate different foods (I am not, and almost certainly never will be by choice, a Vegan), spoke different native tounges, and came from different backgrounds. A mix of practical and hopeless (I’m still working on my tree and herb identification), but all with a great desire to learn about the subject.

On day one, I was sceptical. All this talk about the people that started it. By the end of day two I was hooked. This wasn’t hippy, this was really design science! I was in my element. By the end of day seven, we were due a break. I needed it, pleading “my head’s full”. But we kept discussing, and kept learning. By the end of the course, we’d learned all sorts of things, some new, some not so, and could piece it all together. We were so pleased with our design, and all of us wanted to stay on and build it, and see if it could really be done. I’m sure we’ll all build part of it somewhere.

Before we all left, we held a party, and I drove to the supermarket for beer. It seemed so strange going into this enormous shop and buying things that we could just grow.

The following day, driving home, I realised that I would never see the world in the same way again. What had been nice pretty hedges on the way in, had become fabulous edges, full of interaction, co-operation and competition. What had been nice fields became lifeless deserts, with a monoculture crop standing in a lifeless dead ex-soil supported by pesticides and fertilisers. And the trees! Not just satisfying to look at but a source of so much, capable, if managed properly, of sustaining many of our needs.

When I got back to Ferney-Voltaire, my pensive mood continued. Who knew there was so much food lying around growing in the town already? I had thought growing food in town would be really difficult, but now I know that by working with nature, rather than against it, it’ll be much easier than we think.