towards a be2camp sustainability manifesto

Over the weekend I bought and started to read a copy of Charles Leadbeater’s We Think. “the web is a platform for mass creativity and innovation”.

An analogy that Charles uses in his prologue struck me as a good one as to what is emerging within the built environment sector, and chimes well with my call for a be2camp manifesto at be2camp brum last week.

Imagine a large sandy beach with a small number of big, very big boulders. Around each boulder are gathered crowds of people.

The scene changes, and slowly hundreds and thousands of people come to the beach and drop small pebbles on the beach, anywhere and everywhere, and increasingly no where near the big boulders.

Slowly the pebbles, some of them as small as grains of sand start to dominate the beach-scape. A few new big boulders appear but these seem somehow more attractive, more colourful than the original ones. And on close inspection these are not the mono-culture type as before, but a collection of smaller, independent pebbles.

The landscape has changed dramatically. The big boulders having no influence crumble, as the crowds of people are scattered across the beach.

Leadbeater uses the scenario to illustrate what is happening within business under the influence of social media and network developments. A move away from big corporate control, to the smaller emergent ‘long tail’

In the built environment I see this analogy as a potential shift of influence from the institutes, quangos, national strategy working groups, corporate websites, (the established boulders) to the emerging ‘conversations’ through twitter, facebook, blogs, networks ... (the peebles).

The new boulders, the collection of groups, are the flickrs and slideshares and linkedins. We can also see the be2camps, AECnetwork and Archnetworks, as the new colourful, more attractive boulders with a very different culture.

Problems and innovations are increasingly addressed by the crowds themselves, through connections and connections across the pebbles.

The pebbles are independent in another important aspect, they are no longer tethered to the original big boulders of IT departments, software and internet providers.

The influence in the built environment is shifting.

Which is where I come back to a be2camp sustainability manifesto, (which incidently should really be a resilience manifesto.)

The influence of where the built environment goes in respect of sustainability/resilience should come from, be influenced by, be commented upon and monitored by the people with pebbles. That’s the twitters, the bloggers, the be2campers, ie those who learn, share, inspire through social media, and are slowly becoming the conscience or compass for the sector.

The original starting point for a manifesto, part of the introduction to be2camp London follows, but I have added the issue of resilience that emerged at be2camp brum.

A be2camp manifesto

Address sustainability as an issue of resilience – resilience to changing environmental, social, economic and technical issues.

Make sustainability in the built environment open source. Sustainability is too important an issue and cannot be done behind closed doors

Adopt and use the opportunities that web2.0 offers

Influence, comment, monitor built environment approaches and strategies

Embrace open communication through pedia and dialogue through discussion forums, blogs and twitter to allow for consultation and collaboration

Engage with all in the built environment sector. Unless there is open and representative approaches to sustainability, it will be largely lost, misunderstood or perceived as irrelevant to those at the sharp end of our industry.

Encourage the debate, the transition, the movement to help shape a resilient built environment that embraces web2.0


These points will be put up onto a wiki very shortly for collaborative development. I do hope you engage and shape an open and collaborative approach to sustainability and resilience.

A discussion session will also be held at the be2camp working buildings event in London Oct 7 and 8

There is also the opportunity to comment and add your thoughts here and through twitter using the #b2camp hashtag.

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