Recently I talked to the CEO of a South African technology firm. She told me about a visionary in her firm who had committed himself to developing technological answers to environmental challenges. “He is exactly what you would want in a firm like ours. However, his dreams started bleeding our company in a way I could not account for,” she told me. His ventures were put on hold.
My proposition is that current business models cannot accommodate for corporate involvement in urban challenges, and especially in environmental ones. Add up what we need to do now in order to meet known future requirements and the need shows for a broad commitment, both from not for profit and for profit organisations. We are simply required to cope with more rainfall. Whether or not climate change is caused by human activities is not interesting. Cities not accustomed to the need for shade will simply need to start thinking about exactly that. Parts of The Hague were built so that the cold winds from the sea would not be too bothersome. Now, the need is seen for exactly that cooling wind as a heating up city becomes a problem for an increasingly aged population. New sources of energy are required, if only because the carbon based energy is running out. Waste is to be material for producing goods. Urban farming is not an ideological enterprise but a simple requirement for feeding the future urban population.
Apart from acting upon what we know we increasingly need to -again- develop the ability to resiliently engage the unknown. One might lament the complexity of the world, the seeming chaotic nature, the unpredictable politics, the simplification of deep issues, the votes for populists. Perhaps we have forgotten that people before us encountered similar insecurities. Part of the current predicament is that through the language with which we describe and discuss the challenges we meet we talk ourselves into frustrations. Our descriptions of what we face seem to distance ourselves -or rather what we think of ourselves- out of reach of solutions to problems. The CEO of the technology firm mentioned talks herself away from the visions her employee has, while in another language and with some courage, there is no distance at all. New business-reasoning needs to develop as part of thinking in new economic terms.
This calls for experimentation. A network of next economy pioneers in Rotterdam and The Hague initiated the Prototyping Program. Goal is to enhance the impact and scale of innovative start-ups, also in the field of technology facilitating energy transition and related matters. More info through: www.nexteconomy.nl/prototyping/prototyping-den-haag. Urban innovation laboratories in two The Hague neigbourhoods will host the prototyping project. Both are pilot neighbourhoods in experimenting with what a next generation urban neighbourhood needs to be in order to engage in the challenges ahead.
Associated with this initiative is a project that brings together stakeholders and entrepreneurs from India, South Africa and The Netherlands. They will join local experiments and prototyping projects but will also tinker with new business cases and new corporate talk about urban challenges. Goals is to provide the corporate world with the thoughts and ideas that will trigger old school to join new school in the endeavour to provide next generations with the technology that will help meet their needs.
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