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Essay: John Thackara

Keep Your Stuff Alive

Keep Your Stuff Alive What would fashion be like if it was more than a an act of consumption with no meaning beyond the point of sale? What kind of system would improve the quality of our fashion experience without increasing the quantity we consume?

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Essay: Paul Polak

An Open Letter to Larry Page

An Open Letter to Larry Page In your recent conversation with Charlie Rose at TED, you said you’d rather hand over your cash to Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Solar City) instead of donating it to a philanthropic organization. I understand the sentiment. The nonprofit sphere has generally proved itself incapable of solving many of society's most intractable problems. But for all of us, it’s a practical challenge, not just a guilt trip.

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Essay: John Thackara

Cloud Commuting

Cloud Commuting A two-year project in Belgium proposes new relationships between people, goods, energy, equipment, spaces, and value. Its design objective: a networked mobility ecosystem.

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Essay: John Thackara

A ‘Wild Mirror’ For Desk-Bound Workers

A ‘Wild Mirror’ For Desk-Bound Workers A new scheme in England connects office workers with living systems by means of a ‘wild mirror’: each workspace is twinned with an equivalent area of ecosystem regeneration.

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Essay: John Thackara

Summer Xskool in Sweden

Summer Xskool in Sweden This year’s Doors of Perception Summer Xskool explores what it can mean in practice to move from a ‘do less harm’ approach to sustainability to a practice of leave things better.

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Essay: John Thackara

Energy: Thriving On Five Percent?

Energy: Thriving On Five Percent? The modern city has been shaped by the availability of cheap oil and resources, and plentiful credit. Massive resource and energy flows have been used to build skyscrapers, heat and cool buildings, move and treat water, feed people, and move them and their goods around. This expansion of cities involved the stupendous use of energy.

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Essay: John Thackara

Caloryville: The Two-Wheeled City

Caloryville: The Two-Wheeled City In China, ‘battery-bikes’ are outselling cars by four-to-one. Pedelec sales are soaring in Europe, too. Is this the start of system-wide phase-shift in transportation?

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Essay: John Thackara

Conflict and Design

Conflict and Design An exhibition in Belgium poses a timely challenge: When confronted by such complex issues as an ageing population, resource depletion, migration, or growing impoverishment, how are we to balance the desire to do something positive, with the need to understand the back story before we intervene?

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Essay: John Thackara

Shoe City vs Sole Rebels

Shoe City vs Sole Rebels Two radically opposed models of development are being born in Ethiopia at the same time. One is small, local, socially fair, and ecologically respectful. The other takes the globalisation of fashion to a new and more destructive level.

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Other Recent Posts


John Thackara: A Whole New Cloth: Politics and the Fashion System
The Editors: Most Popular Change Observer Posts of 2013
John Thackara: The Dementia Care Economy
Liz Gerber: The Trifecta of Feedback
John Thackara: Ecuador, Open Knowledge, and ‘Buen Vivir’: Interview With Michel Bauwens
John Thackara: Dementia: Care Before Cure
John Thackara: Desert of the Real
Paul Polak: End Poverty or Bust
Paul Polak and Mal Warwick: How to Solve India’s Poverty Crisis
William Drenttel and Michael Mossoba: Winterhouse Fourth Symposium on Design Education and Social Change: Final Report
John Thackara: Designing In A Complex World: Two Talks In Mexico City
Andrew Shea: Shaping Design Education at LEAP Symposium
Richard Grefé and Chelsea Vandiver: The Millennial Designer
Cheryl Heller: Forget Poverty. Let’s Talk Business.
John Thackara: Ways of Knowing
Paul Polak: Achieving Scale
John Thackara: Speed? What Speed? Prisoners of Speed, by Ivan Illich
John Thackara: Speed? What Speed? The Belly-Dance Drummer, by Matthias Rieger
John Thackara: Speed? What Speed? The Falcon, by Sebastian Trapp
John Thackara: Flyways



Design and the Social Sector: An Annotated BibliographyThis bibiography was initiatied by Courtney Drake in 2010, a graduate student at the Yale University School of Management, to survey the literature of social design — the spectrum from design process and thinking to the zones of social innovation. It is the beginning of a larger project by Winterhouse Institute, working with the participants of the Winterhouse Design and Social Change Symposia, to build a bibliography around the practice of social design. The work here was continued by Deirdre Cerminaro, also at Yale School of Management, in 2012. Significant additions by Cerminaro will be added to this post in the coming days.

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Case Studies

Design and Social Enterprise Case Studies

A new series of cases focused on design and social innovation created by Yale School of Management in collaboration with Winterhouse Institute, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.
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This case study about the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation provides an opportunity to examine sustained work towards healthcare and in a context where designers and design thinking are critical components.
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This case study about SELCO, a solar energy company in India, provides an opportunity to examine the strategy of a business with a social purpose and a heavy reliance on innovative design.
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Gallery: Chaz Maviyane-Davies

Occupy America 2011

Occupy America 2011Prisoners of Conscience: The Series

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Project: Julie Lasky

Faraday Utility Bike

Faraday Utility BikeNothing on the road is more prosaic than a vehicle designed for hauling loads. Unless, of course, the vehicle has been imagined by a leading industrial design firm working in partnership with an innovative American bicycle manufacturer.

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Miscellaneous: The Editors

10 Things Acumen Fund Has Learned About Tackling Global Poverty

10 Things Acumen Fund Has Learned About Tackling Global PovertyA new website, with a clear framing of principles, marks the organization's first decade.

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Gallery: Photo by Jason Orton

London 2012

London 2012Northern Parklands, Olympic Park (2011)

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Project: John Foster

DART St. Louis

DART St. LouisLast April, more than 250 designers, art directors, photographers and illustrators took turns throwing darts at a map of St. Louis. The intersection where the dart landed became their destination. The dart-thrower had a month to find his or her assigned corner of the city and return with a photograph that made that spot come to vivid life.

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Miscellaneous: The Editors

Sappi Ideas That Matter

Sappi Ideas That MatterBack in the last century (1999 to be precise), the paper company Sappi launched a program to distribute grants for social design and innovation. Since then, Ideas That Matter has funded $11 million in efforts to improve the health, education and prosperity of the world’s citizens.

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Project: Julie Lasky

Ringing in the New Air

Ringing in the New AirIsetan, the venerable Tokyo department store, is doing its bit for the atmosphere.

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Project: Ernest Beck

Project Mwana

Project MwanaFor mothers and newborns, early medical testing is critical to health, especially for detecting HIV/AIDS. But in some developing countries, sending and receiving a blood sample from an extremely remote location can take between two and five months. Project Mwana is changing that.

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