Do Lectures 2011 - The People's Take Over


All images by Leonora Oppenheim. Perry Chen speaking about Kickstarter at the Do Lectures 2011

Yesterday for our third post in the Do Lectures 2011 series we encouraged you to Start Where You Live. You never know quite how far you will travel. In the case of Welsh organic salt company Halen Môn their unique local product ended up at the White House in Obama's favourite chocolates. Now that we've made a start and we've got some momentum let's look at where change can take us with The People's Take Over.Power to the People
We heard yesterday that Michael Kelly's dissatisfaction with his supermarket stocking Chinese garlic lead to him starting the Grow It Yourself movement. That's one response to the dominance of supermarket culture that we feel powerless to change. Another response is The People's Supermarket founded by chef Arthur Potts Dawson. So what does a local supermarket run by the people look like? Well the answer is 1400 owners of a food store that cost £28 000 to set up, rather than a projected £1.3 million. It means that these co-operative shareholders give 4 hours of their time a week to run the supermarket and that local sourcing of the food they sell is the norm.

As their mission states: "Our intent is to offer an alternative food buying network, by connecting an urban community with the local farming community. The Supermarket is a sustainable food cooperative that responds to the needs of the local community and provides healthy, local food at reasonable prices."


Arthur Potts Dawson at the Do Lectures 2011
The Importance of Being Disruptive
In his talk Arthur, who started Acorn House and the Waterhouse as experiments in sustainable restauranting, explained that after 25 years working as a chef he was looking "for answers he couldn't find elsewhere" in his quest to help people become "intimately connected with the whole cycle of food." Out of The People's Supermarket he's now looking to start the People's Kitchen where all the waste food from the supermarket is used to feed the community. "I'm excited by and very interested in alternative disruptive technologies," he says, "I'm always looking for new challenges."


Mohammad Al-Ubaydli speaking about Patient Knows Best at the Do Lectures 2011
Effective Communications
Challenging the status quo and looking for alternative models is a strong motivating factor in many people's stories at the Do Lectures. Mohammad Al-Ubaydli is another inspiring changemaker who is working hard to give more power to the people. In his case it's all about giving people control of their medical records. Patients Know Best was founded on the principle that we know ourselves best, better than any doctor in fact.

It is the world's first patient-controlled medical records system and the first company to integrate into the NHS network. Mohammad's expertise in medical software has lead him from designing communication platforms for his small team of colleagues to enabling a whole nation of doctors to work more effectively with their patients. Now, for the first time, people managing illnesses have a sense of control over their treatments.


Perry Chen's slide of Allison Weiss' Kickstarter project to fund her EP
Crowd Sourced Funding
Providing a disruptive platform for people to bypass the usual convoluted system is also what Perry Chen is doing with the popular crowd-sourced funding platform Kickstarter. As a project maker himself he saw how hard it was for people to get their creative projects financed, given that they mostly had no hope of generating revenue. But he also knew how much pleasure people get out of supporting other people's creative dreams, "People want to see passionate people."

With Kickstarter Perry saw an opportunity to set that creativity loose and let people take control of the fundraising themselves. The results have been incredible for musicians, film makers and designers alike and they have relished the carte blanche that Kickstarter gives them to create funny, endearing and downright crazy video pitches. Perry says the positive response from people everywhere has been overwhelming. Now Kickstarter is now close to having enabled 1 million people to donate to crazy creative projects, for no better reason than because they the love the idea.


One crazy creative idea: Group photo from Laura Brunow Miner's Phoot Camp
Stable Communities
This sense of creative collaboration was echoed by Laura Brunow Miner in her talk "What Camp has Taught Me about Communities." For several years now Laura has been bringing people together to share their skills at summer camps in order to encourage "learning by doing and learning from your peers." She describes the photography based Phoot Camp and the food based Eat Retreat as "petri-dishes of interaction", that help people get out from behind their screens and allow them to think about "our skills of self-sufficiency and ideas about community."

"I want to catalyse people, that is my calling," she says, "There is are limits to my own intelligence and talents, but there are no limits to bringing people together." Laura used a wonderful quote from Kurt Vonnegut in her talk, ""What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured."


Indy Johar speaking about catalysing communities at the Do Lectures 2011
The Social Economy
Catalysing change in communities is what architect Indy Johar's work is all about too. As co-founder of the shared work spaces in London, Hub Kings Cross and the soon to open Hub Westminster, Indy provides spaces for entrepreneurs to work together in a community, getting away from that "disease of loneliness" and isolation that can plague start-ups.

The concept of hyperlocal is important, Indy says, so that people can feel like they are in touch with the system they are part of. When "infrastructure gets small then we can find it." He argues it is the "dis-economies of scale" that takes away power and resilience. As businesses gets bigger and bigger people feel increasingly that they are just a cog in a wheel in a system that is out of their control.


Indy Johar's slide on the social economy
What is ownership?
"In the medieval serfdom of the digital age," Indy says, our hyperconnected world has take the "Power away from the craftsmen." In fact, he states, the knowledge economy is "a hegemony of the few", while the masses have become "automated". These are disconcerting notions that suggest, despite appearances, we are not actually in control of our digital worlds. Indy also debated the idea of ownership. In this new age of social networking, collaboration and co-operatives who owns the idea? Is Streetcar a new sharing economy or is it in fact just a new rental economy?

Indy's talk raised more questions than it answered as he asked us to be wary of seeing alternative disruptive models as panacea. "There is no heaven at the end of it, just a brand new set of challenges and questions," Indy said, as a caution to those idealising the social economy. He was reminding us to never stop asking difficult questions, because Things Are Not Just The Way They Are.


Alan Webber encourages Radical Pragmatists to raise the cost of the status quo to incentivise change.
The Rise of the Radical Pragmatists
Indy's realistic approach to change was supported by Alan Webber, founder of Fast Company, in his talk. He called out for more Radial Pragmatists, who he describes as "People who are not only in love with the risk of change, but also prepared to raise the cost of the status quo." Like Laura, Alan encourages petri dish sized experiments to "tell stories that connect with people." The people's take over, he says, needs "a combination of social innovation and real results while checking our romantic idealism at the door."

More on The Do Lectures
Do Lectures 2011 - Start Where You Live
Do Lectures 2011 - What Can You Uniquely Do?
Do Lectures 2011 - 5 Lessons on How to Love Life & Improve the World Around You
Not a Dry Eye In The House - Maggie Doyne Tells Her Incredible Story At The Do Lectures 2010
The Do Lectures 2009 - Bonfire Brands
The Do Lectures 2009 - The Axeness of an Axe
The Do Lectures 2009 - Take The First Step
The Do Lectures 2009 - Turn Off Your TV
The Do Lectures 2009 - Big Hairy Audacious Goals

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