It's proving to be a Summer in which design gurus join up the dots - and it's fantastic!
First up was John Thackara who in a brilliant paper called Clean Growth for Design Innovation Scotland promoted the idea of enabling platforms as a way of mobilizing the masses.
In answer to the challenge of pulling people together in support of sustainability - and in part inspired (perhaps, maybe, dunno) by work we've done together - John urges an approach that starts with existing grassroots activity and then moves on
to creating frameworks that enable these actions to grow and develop. The concept of enabling platforms is key here. A variety of tools and techniques has been developed by global business in recent times that can be re-purposed for ultra-local use. These range from service design, to technologies of co-operation, and systems of resource allocation - ranging from people to water.
Next up comes the mighty Ezio Manzini, Profession of industrial design at Milan University, a pioneer of slow design who I've met just once and exchange emails with from time to time - but God, this man is inspiring!
In a new book on service design edited by Satu Miettinen and Mikko Koivisto, Ezio explores its role in an age of networks and sustainability - and forgive me, but it needs to be quoted in full:
The world is rich in potential resources. They are diffuse natural and social resources such as, for instance, solar energy and wind on the one side, and people's creativity and entrepreneurship, on the other.
Traditionally these resources were not considered, because the idea of economy of scale was blinding us, and we were unable to recognise their potentialities.
Today, we have learnt that, in the network society, things can be seen in a quite different way: diffuse resources can be valorised by distributed systems.
The Internet has made thinkable and practially feasible peer-to-peer organisational models that allow us to valorise diffuse knowledge and people's capabilities.
The result is that now we can see a solution in the richness of these diffuse resources, and most probably the only viable solution, to the current major problems of our Planet.
But wow - to the power of two.
Because if you interleave these ideas alongside a definition of cloud computing by Luis Vaquero and recently cited in a paper by McKinsey, you start to see ways and means by which technology might support the delivery of a more sustainable tomorrow:
Clouds are a large pool of easily usable and accessible virtualized resources (such as hardware, development platforms and/or services). These resources can be dynamically reconfigured to adjust to a variable load (scale), allowing also for an optimum resource utilization. This pool of resources is typically exploited by a pay-per-use model in which guarantees are offered by the Infrastructure Provider by means of customised SLAs (service-level agreements).
Meaning: a radical and (perhaps) more sustainable idea of service provision is arriving and one which could have profound implications for certain industries, especially ones that have traditionally relied upon fixed assets - real esate for one.