Do We Need More Professional People?


A while ago I tweeted the following:

Sometimes people tell me I should be more professional. But I don’t think more professional people is a thing that’s good for our planet.

Professional people get more shit done. No doubt about it. They can influence people, engage people and push people to do things. They have more money and power. They dress sharper, have better social media profiles and attract people, as we trust serious, sharp professionals. They know what they’re doing. They find people to invest in their ideas. They are sometimes ruthless in order to get what they want, but that’s part of their modus operandi.

The thing is; I don’t think the qualities of professional people are what we need in the world right now. I actually rather think that unprofessional people have the qualities we need. Those who don’t focus on money, surface and self-promotion, but rather those idle, slow-living, unorganised people who often give away their time and their knowledge for free.  Those who take a lighter, more quiet approach to life than the high-octane professionals. Those who realize that speed and efficiency only leads to a need for more speed and efficiency.

You get what I mean. Even if we don’t like smelly, naive hippies, we know that they’re doing the right thing. They consume less, care for the Earth and their carbon footprint is lighter than ours. And even if they’re often hypocritical (which we are quick to point out), they are actually better for the planet.

My problem is that in order to get somewhere with my projects right now, I must be more professional. People I work with need me to be this, in order to trust me, fund me, and help me. They don’t want to fund an unprofessional person – a hippie. And I want to move forward. I want shit done. Together with them. So I want to be professional.

And therein lies my problem. I don’t think we need more professional people on the planet, but I want to be more professional myself. A clear contradiction.

This is the classic NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) thing applied to one’s actions. In Holland some years ago they asked people if they thought less people would be better for the planet. A majority said yes. Less people in Europe? Yes. Less people in Holland? Yes. Less people in their neighbourhood and family? No!

The NIMBY logic is clear. The closer we are to a problem the less likely we are to be generous and understanding; the less likely we are to accept foreign and unwanted elements.

And I want less professional people in the world, but want to be more professional myself. That’s not being the change you want to see. That’s not putting your money where your mouth is.

I don’t know how to solve my problem.

I guess it’s the same as my relation to work. I think people in general should work less. But I work more and more for every year. I want my projects to move forward and hence I need to spend more time on them. Most activities I do for this are fun, but some of them are boring, i.e. I must label work.

But how can I reconcile these “be the change you want to see” dilemmas? I can work less and be less professional, or I can change my mind to a belief that professionalism and work are good.

I wonder what’s the easiest.

Three Scenarios for the Future of Capitalism


We currently see many articles about the the evils of capitalism, the end of capitalism and possible post-capitalism futures. I was invited to talk at the One Planet Anti-Conference a couple of weeks ago on the topic ‘whether or not capitalism can be transformed to “realize” that the earth is capital’. I wasn’t well, so couldn’t do the talk, but thought I’d write down my thoughts here anyway.

As a futurist I often think in scenarios, so with this question in mind, I tried to explore three of these.

1.  Capitalism will eat itself


This is a scenario which probably has been best described by Jeremy Rifkin. Capitalism will eat itself and self-destruct as exponential technology pushes marginal cost towards zero. Rifkin says:

No one in their wildest imagination, including economists and business people, ever imagined the possibility of a technology revolution so extreme in its productivity that it could actually reduce marginal costs to near zero, making products nearly free, abundant and absolutely no longer subject to market forces.

As we know, capitalists are some of the most excited cheerleaders of exponential technology, and if Rifkin is right this will lead to self-destruction of capitalism.

2. Capitalism will be replaced by something better


This scenario is popular in leftist and progressive press, which has long anticipated and pushed for a new system beyond capitalism. Most of them have now realised that Marxism is inflexible and won’t work, but that there are other possible futures. Some look at hybrids such as conscious or responsible capitalism (see my thoughts on those here), which still keep elements of capitalism, and some look at completely new post-capitalist systems. The most interesting of the latter is the peer-to-peer movement, which is working on a so-called commons transition, with “policy proposals and ideas to implement a Social Knowledge Economy:

“…an ethical economy, a non-capitalist marketplace that re-introduces reciprocity and co-operation in the market’s functioning, while co-creating commons and creating livelihoods for the commoners. This type of economy and market in which co-operation, mutuality, and the common good define the characteristics of a new kind of political economy, point the way to a new state form, which we have called the Partner State.”

This economic system is already found in some clusters around the world. In Greece, Spain, some American cities etc. where collapsing economies have spurred local peer economies, community exchanges and complementary currencies. The open-source software and DIY hardware movements have always had a peer-to-peer philosophy. And the internet has enabled new global links between these clusters, which now begin to form networked neo-tribes (intentional communities, hacker & art collectives, coworking spaces, grass-roots movements, eco villages, entrepreneurial hubs, etc).

These post-capitalist clusters of people with local-centric AND global-centric values might with cryptocurrencies and local exchange mechanisms, create true peer-to-peer economies, which are more relevant than capitalism in our modern networked societies.

3. Capitalism will be around forever


We often forget that economic systems are fluid, organic and not fixed in time. No one decides that we suddenly shall have a new dominant global economic system. Sure, they do in China and other totalitarian places, but most systems have historically emerged as various factors have allowed this in a few clusters. And then found relevant in other regions so have migrated there.

I’m not that well-read on the history of capitalism but according to Wikipedia, “Early Islam promulgated capitalist economic policies, which migrated to Europe through trade partners from cities such as Venice.” Industrial capitalism then emerged in England with the industrial revolution, and later global capitalism became the dominant global system, as various countries adopted the gold standard and started trading in the globalized world.

But in most of the world, other economic systems still prevailed. In fact, earlier systems such as slavery and feudalism are still used in many places in the world. Once, systems and practices that were accepted for us in the developed world are now seen as despicable. Values and wordviews shape our economic systems. And vice versa.

So in the same way that bartering, slavery and feudalism are still used in the world (there are between 12 and 30 million slaves working away in the world as I write this), capitalism will likely also be around for a long time.


What interests me with these three scenarios is that they all pretty likely will happen. They are not mutually exclusive of one another, and we can choose to step into any of them as individuals, organisations or societies.

So how would you approach these scenarios?

How would you act if these stories of the future would become true?

An Experiment with Living Labs

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.26.31 PM

What is a Living Lab?

For about three months we in the enkel collective, a group of Western Australian changemakers, have explored the potential to set up three so-called ‘living labs’.

A living lab is a research concept. A living lab is a user-centred, open-innovation ecosystem, often operating in a territorial context (e.g. city, agglomeration, region), integrating concurrent research and innovation processes within a public-private-people partnership.” (Wikipedia)

We were very interested in this concept as our organisation is founded on the collective intelligence, knowledge and skills of people from various sectors and organisations – both public and private.

It wasn’t easy to facilitate this process. Collaboration is a beast. And cross-sector collaboration in a voluntary living lab is even harder. Here are some of my reflections as an insider and part-facilitator. The whole series of co-creation workshops (our living labs forum series) was skilfully facilitated and led by my colleague and enkel Ambassador for Collaborations Jordan Ivatts.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.24.26 PM
Food Lab excursion

On Collaboration

“A good partnership is not so much one between two healthy people (there aren’t many of these on the planet), it’s one between two demented people who have had the skill or luck to find a non-threatening conscious accommodation between their relative insanities.”

This is a quote from The Book of Life, and is obviously meant for a marriage: A partnership between two demented people. But this can also be used for a team of people working together. Everyone in the group has their personal challenges, delusions and worldviews. Everyone has their fears, underlying drivers and ways of doing things. Everyone is there for a particular reason.

That’s why we wanted to “extract” as much as possible from people as early as possible. What are your values? Why are you interested in joining this series of workshops and living labs? What do you want to achieve when this is over? These and other deeply personal questions were asked in the first workshops.

After finding commonalities in various areas (which took many weeks for some groups) the collaboration in the groups started to happen. But not until one person in each group stepped up as a leader.

This was one of the many things we discussed in the ‘team of curators’, which oversaw the living labs process: The balance between individual drive and collective input. When a person steps up to lead a group, other group members will leave the group, as the direction suddenly changes to be focussed on one individual rather than the group. This might be impossible to avoid.

The balance between the individual and collective is one of many challenges we identified.


Education Lab flyers


Collaboration that works is probably to find the right balance between different things:

Individual gain  Collective gain
Face-to-face meetings Virtual platform discussions and decisions
Closed group to get things done Open group to allow further diversity
 Clear manifesto, purpose, vision, theme Uncertainty to allow a living lab emerge naturally.
 Clear outcome Open-ended. No outcome – the process is the valuable thing
 Defined process Experiment
 Intellectual Property Open Source


 Individual Labs

After starting with eight different labs, we narrowed down to three:

  1. The enkel Food Lab is exploring the idea of introducing scale-able, automated, local food production to WA. We are currently looking to hack current hydroponics systems in order to build a small, modular, automated hydroponics system for suburban homes.
  2.  The enkel-powered Education Lab aims to improve student learning through developing better tutoring methods. This will be approached by tutoring disadvantaged students at no cost; creating a user-provider open research relationship.
  3. Community Lab is a group of people interested in developing a concept for using under-utilised assets in the community for the benefit of connecting and growing neighbourhoods. These assets can be after-hours use of schools, community halls, libraries etc.

We in the curators team also discussed how the level of participation depended on ‘tangible gratification’, i.e. whether a lab worked better if there was more fun, hands-on work and “action”. We noticed that the food lab, which worked with research followed by building a prototype of a hydroponics system attracted most people at times, but the education lab after the Living Lab series came to an end.

In general both head, hands and heart must probably be present for success.


My lecturer in Strategic Foresight at Swinburne University, Dr Peter Hayward, often spoke about Snyder’s theory of hope, and how that is key in his teaching of the future. From Wikipedia:

“His theory of hope emphasizes goal-directed thinking, where a person uses both pathways thinking (the perceived capacity to find routes to their desired goals) and agency thinking (the necessary motivation to use those routes).”
Dr Hayward said that his role (as program director and teacher) was to give us students pathways thinking. But he said that he was no Yoda, i.e he could never give us agency thinking.

I think there’s something similar in the facilitation of these living labs (and in our role to help each other in the enkel collective). We can give pathways by inviting people in to participate in the collective emergence unfolding in enkel.  But we cannot give them the agency to act – the entrepreneurial drive and inner will to create their individual journey.

I think the individual / collaborative dilemma is a good example of this.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.23.50 PM
Vic Park Mini Lab

Living Labs Continued…

The projects we did were technically not Living Labs, as per the formal definition. We were not doing “real” government-business-academia partnerships. We had people from all these sectors, but not in an official capacity. They came as curious individuals and many of them stayed – but not representing their organisation.

 So what were we doing?

Well, all of the three labs decided to steer clear of various models based on dependency of external funding, such as grants, government funding etc. In today’s economical environment in Western Australia (our ‘resource boom’ is over, which has lead to a downturn in the economy) and globally (Grexit and Chinese stock market crash happened during this series of workshops) this seemed short-sighted. Instead, the discussions on how to fund the labs were focussed on self-sufficiency and social entrepreneurship models.

I started to think that perhaps living labs can simply not work here in Western Australia, as there is no culture of cross-sector collaboration. In Europe, where the living labs concept is pretty established now, with The European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL) there is a tradition of funding these types of experimental initiatives by government partnerships or innovative EU programs. This does not exist here yet. Nor does the culture of collaboration to great extent.

For the next iteration of these multi-disciplinary open research labs, I therefore thought we had to move away from the Living Labs model and work together with the MakeSense network – a global network of local “labs”, which help social entrepreneurs solve their challenges, and accelerate their impact.

If academics and governments business partners wanted to join, we could always reconsider labelling these labs living labs again.

My recommendation after the enkel living labs forum was to wait. Neither enkel nor partnering academics, governments or businesses are ready in my view.


In parallel we worked to find a space for the enkel collective. We spoke to local governments in various parts of Perth, and were fortunate to find a space in East Vic Park, where we could host our workshops, events and activities for 12 months – courtesy of Town of Vic Park. This was mainly thanks to local community organisation The Vic Park Collective.

After being open a couple of weeks we had a university institution coming in to the space. The Architecture Department at Curtin University wanted to collaborate with us.

So suddenly we had a public-private-people-academic partnership between Town of Vic Park, Curtin University and the Vic Park Collective.

We had a real living lab!

And this living lab – The Vic Park MiniLab – has now started to operate. I’ll update our reflections and learnings as we go.

Some thoughts on the European Union project after the Greek NO vote


Some thoughts on the European Union project after the Greek NO vote:

1. I voted YES to the European Union myself in the Swedish referendum in 1994. At the time, with the knowledge and understanding of a 21yr-old, it seemed like a logical thing. I loved the multicultural, bridge-building, transnational aspects of the EU, and didn’t understand the economic aspects much back then.

2. I think the EU deserved the Nobel Peace prize for peace it was given in 2012 “for helping to transform Europe from ‘continent of war’ into ‘continent of peace'”. It has been a stabilizing force for the fragmented Europe for a long time.

3. But is the union still relevant? Everything has its time. Today’s challenges are very different from those in 1950, when the EU seeds where sown as the European Coal and Steel Community formed. In today’s truly globalized world; does it make sense to build walls around a chunk of our planet, where only some goods, services, people and money can move freely? Countries have always entered partnerships, collaborations and alliances with each other, but none of these have lasted, so why would this one?

4. Perhaps my biggest concern with the union is the old question ‘Cui Bono?’, i.e. ‘who benefits’? And more importantly ‘who doesn’t?’.


5. Meso systems such as the EU might be a stepping stone to new global, distributed systems. Many of us work in creating a global connected network of local, thrivable communities. The challenge in that work (to me at least) is that the difference between the micro (local community building) and the macro (global network weaving) seems so huge, and it’s hard to work simultaneously on both (and find sustainable value exchanges in both). Perhaps meso systems like the EU can actually help here? EU for example funds Edgeryders, one of my favourite transnational changemaker communities.

6. Would I vote yes to the EU again today?
Probably. My intuition says yes.

The death of the social entrepreneur?

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 12.53.20 PM

Norwegian peace researcher, sociologist and mathematician Johan Galtung has invented a method called TRANSCEND for conflict transformation by peaceful means. According to Galtung (and Wikipedia);

“there are four traditional but unsatisfactory ways in which conflicts between two parties are handled:

  1. A wins, B loses;
  2. B wins, A loses;
  3. the solution is postponed because neither A nor B feels ready to end the conflict;
  4. a confused compromise is reached, which neither A nor B are happy with.

Galtung tries to break with these four unsatisfactory ways of handling a conflict by finding a “fifth way”, where both A and B feel that they win. The method also insists that basic human needs – such as survival, physical well-being, liberty, and identity – be respected.”


I’ve been thinking about using the TRANSCEND method for one of today’s conflicts. The profit vs. non-profit conflict.

We have recently come to understand that for-profit organisations are problematic, as they do not always care about the planet and its people. These are not considered in their model and seen as “externalities” to be cared for by others.

Most non-profits care for these, but on the other hand often don’t care about profit and financial viability. Both these organisational forms are therefore problematic. There has always been a tension between them, which has been seen as good for the evolution of the planet and humanity. If one of them becomes too strong the other will push back through the democratic process.

Some people still think these can co-exist and that the tension between for-profit and non-profit is healthy. Others see a conflict and point out that for-profit, market economy / capitalism itself is actually fuelling the fire of the challenges that the non-profits try to tackle. Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything for instance writes that:

“Very little, however, has been written about how market fundamentalism has, from the very first moments, systematically sabotaged our collective response to climate change, a threat that came knocking just as this ideology was reaching its zenith.”

Market proponents mean that the markets will solve this eventually and the planet will survive. Their opponents mean that markets are the underlying problem to the destruction of the planet. We have a conflict.


If we apply TRANSCEND to this conflict it could look like this:

(I use for-profit vs. non-profit as the chosen conflict here. It could be capitalism vs. collectivism, market economy vs. peer economy, scarcity-based vs. abundance-based thinking etc etc – you get the point…)

1. A wins, B loses, i.e. for-profit wins, NFP loses. This is what some people think is happening now. The planet is currently being destroyed because for-profit is winning. The tension between the two is out of balance on a global scale. The for-profit model and the organisations which subscribe to it, have much more impact than non-profit organisations. Microsoft has way more impact on the world than the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Apple have way more impact on the planet than Greenpeace. They play in totally different leagues. And this gap is growing. Even if non-profits, charitable foundations and cause-driven organisations are growing in size and impact, they are hopelessly behind.

2. B wins, A loses; i.e. NFP wins, for-profit loses. Many argue for this as the way forward and a world where NFPs dominate. Donnie Maclurcan and Jennifer Hinton of the Post-Growth Institute for example write in The Guardian: “We’re witnessing the rise of a workforce increasingly motivated by purpose, and we’re realising the potential of an existing business structure called not-for-profit (NFP) enterprise.”

3. The solution is postponed because neither A nor B feels ready to end the conflict. There is actually no conflict yet, but if Naomi Klein and others will get their message through, the “conflict” might escalate into something more resembling a conflict. Klein’s attacks on multinational corporations and the negative effects of globalisation (in No Logo) and US “democratization” of other countries (in The Shock Doctrine) have done much to change global opinions. Perhaps her new book, This Changes Everything, will do the same?

4. A confused compromise is reached, which neither A nor B are happy with. Today we see many hybrids between A and B, i.e. between the for-profit, market-based, scarcity model and the non-profit, purpose-driven, planet & people-including model. Conscious capitalism, for-benefit corporations, responsible capitalism, social enterprise and a plethora of new or tweaked models have emerged in recent decades. But are these only confused compromises, I wonder?
I have noticed others wonder as well:

* In a recent article, Rick Cohen asks the question “Is social enterprise becoming a reactionary force?” and whether “‘benefit corporations’ are “the harbinger of progressive change in the economy, or the soft edge of efforts to conserve the legitimacy of capitalism with a few marginal adjustments?”

* Joe Corbett argues that “Conscious Capitalism is like voluntary recycling, it is a mere gesture toward a more sustainable economic system, and is no solution to the globally systemic crisis of an insatiable drive toward ever increasing profit and consumption.”

* And management guru Henry Mintzberg calls bullshit on all new adjectives latched onto capitalism: “We have Sustainable Capitalism, Caring Capitalism, Breakthrough Capitalism, Democratic Capitalism, Conscious Capitalism, Regenerative Capitalism, Inclusive Capitalism”. “The assumption seems to be that If only we can get capitalism right, all will be well with the world. No doubt capitalism needs some fixing: the short-term pressures of stock markets are encouraging mercenary behaviours that are doing great harm to our democracies, our planet, and ourselves.”


I’m intrigued by transcending rather than compromising here.

So which would be Galtung’s “fifth way“? Something, where people who support both A and B, i.e. both for-profit and not-for-profit would feel that they win?

Galtung suggests a pathway: Creativity – transcendence – conflict transformation.

“Transcendence means redefining the situation so that what looked incompatible, blocked, is unlocked, and a new landscape opens up. Creativity is the key to that lock, block. The conflict has been transformed.”

That landscape is still not clear to me. I think there’s something in imagining a new landscape in a collective effort, but it’s way beyond me.

Suggestions, anyone?

Dear Robots. Please take our jobs.

Maslow-hierarchy I’m revisiting Maslow’s hierarchy. And I realise this:

Work is nowhere to be found in Maslow’s hierarchy!

And I also realise what an incredible challenge this is for us in the Western developed world. Many important things are there in the hierarchy – like food, safety, creative activities, friends and prestige. But we have – in our twisted Lutheran minds – somehow created this thing called “work” to replace “life” to fulfil many of the needs included in the pyramid. This might have been fine for a long time. But now we have definitely reached a point in human evolution where “work” as a concept does more harm than good. Some examples (you know them + more…): * We identify to an unhealthy degree with our work, and have problems building other meaningful identities. * We work too much and suffer individual, family and societal consequences of workaholism. * We work hard to gain status, instead on working on the right things to make our world a better place. * We work just for the sake of work.

So our challenge is to replace “work” with something else.

*** These crumbling illusions based on our mental or sociological lives slowly grind down the concept and illustrate its hollow nature. Another factor which rapidly transforms our image of the necessity of “work” is the fact that robots will soon take most of our jobs. And in our twisted Lutheran minds we cry; “No! No!” they’re taking our jobs!” instead of the healthier response “Yes! Yes! They’re taking our jobs!”. We’re scared of robots taking our jobs. But not because we fear the post-work life. No: We’re scared of robots taking our jobs, because we fear the unknown post-work concept – that concept, which will replace all elements in Maslow’s hierarchy (and more) soon. So. Let’s: A. Not fear the robots. B. Stop working. C. Start imagining and creating our personal and collective post-work futures.

Six ingredients for better schools


Recently I came across two things which I felt are very important in our work to make education better. Whether we work within the existing education systems or outside it, I think it’s worth considering these things.

The first four are taken from a quote from an article written by Kaos Pilot principal Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius:

“If we, as a school devoted to leadership and entrepreneurship, can help bestow a sense of self, a sense of skill, a sense of belonging and a sense of direction, much can be obtained.”

In Otto Scharmer’s Stanford University edX MOOC U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society, and Self he began by showing the following image:

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.48.44 PM

If we put these together we end up with the following (self knowledge and sense of self can be combined…):

Six ingredients for better schools:

1. Provide a sense of self

2. Provide a sense of skill

3. Provide a sense of belonging

4. Provide a sense of direction

5. Link the power of entrepreneurship with passion and compassion

6. Take learning out of the classroom

The in-between era

This image is from a recent Harvard Business Review article. It nicely illustrates the polarization of values in “new” and “old” paradigm organisations:


The right hand column in the image is what we futurists call a preferred future.

Even if the characteristics of the “new power values” in this future are what many of us wish for, we’re far from there yet. The left hand column of “old power values” still dominates our lives. However, it’s now increasingly clear to us that many aspects of these values no longer work. But on the other hand, the new power values don’t work either, as that preferred future is not here yet.

I guess our challenge today is that we’re in between the two paradigms – somewhere in the strange space between these two columns.

Some of us work towards the new paradigm, but still within the old paradigm. And this work is naturally confusing, conflicting and difficult for most of us.

Some call this the post-normal era: An era characterized by transition, emergence, shifts, both/and approaches, uncertainties and paradoxes. I think depth, foresight, presence and hope are some key tools/concepts to make sense of this in-between era.

Injecting the Future

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.40.30 AM

The image here illustrates a model for change we discussed over the weekend in the local Western Australian Future of Learning and Education event for the 3rd Global Education Hackathon.

On the x-axis we have time and on the y-axis impact.

Those who work in a new or alternative paradigms of education (whether it’s online MOOCs, alternative approaches, peer-to-peer concepts, life-long education, self-directed learning, home schooling, multiple intelligence based learning, indigenous wisdom, Meetup groups, etc) often struggle to be accepted, certified and acknowledged by the “old”, formal education system.

One way to envision exchange between the two systems is by acupuncture or “injection” of a future virus in the old paradigm. The benefit for the whole is a more seamless transition between the two systems, which will eventually happen anyway, but with more or less friction. The creative forces in the new, alternative paradigm cannot be prevented and will eventually win.

The challenge here for both the old and new is to find the exchange mechanisms between the paradigms. The systems of the old paradigm are set up to react against the new and most of the new does not fit into the templates – hence the slow ‘death by stagnation’ of the old.

What can educators, learning hackers and entrepreneurs gain from trading with the other side? And how can they do this?