Convivial Design for the American Breakdown

Peter Jones Wu Wei

Part II.   Human-Scale Tools for Change While many authors recently warned of the consequences of an ideology of unfettered growth, including Ronald Wright, Jared Diamond, George Monbiot, and Thomas Homer-Dixon), philosopher/priest Ivan Illich warned us 40 years ago.  He foresaw a collapse of the post-industrial economy, which did not happen then. Illich proposed that autonomous, creative citizens take responsibility for creating the tools that might regenerate a civilization for real human needs and purposes. Perhaps both, breakdown and a creative civilization, are happening now. As with the Club of Rome (1969) and their Limits to Growth (1972), Ivan Illich was right – but at the wrong time.  Those who remember the 1970’s may recall that alternative publications at the time (I have all the old Co-Evolution Quarterlies) treated the mid-70’s as if the apocalypse was happening then. Perhaps it always seems that way. As Dayton’s (now Austin’s) Troy Campbell sang on 2004’s American Breakdown, The World Keeps on Ending – every generation reinvents their desire the end the problems they inherited before the problems end the generation. Yet this time …

“Reforming” the US Healthcare “system”

Peter Jones Wu Wei

First off, its not a system, and we should reclaim our correct use of the word. It is a system in the way officials like to call the incarceration process the “justice system.” System dignifies this mess as if it were an assembly of planned processes directed toward beneficial outcomes. And the way we toss around the word reform suggests there was a form to re. Messes like this require a primary act of intentional design. Intentional systemic design starts with framing (and reframing) the concern people have that will be the target of design. And today, we have a good one. Dr. Andrew Weil reframes the entire healthcare reform “debate” happening in the political arena. By identifying a systemic root cause (a diagnosis) of one of the largest-scale concerns ever to be embraced in politics and society, Dr. Weil has cut through the bullshit and redefined the conceptual frame. “But what’s missing, tragically, is a diagnosis of the real, far more fundamental problem, which is that what’s even worse than its stratospheric cost is the fact that American health …

Design + Business as Agents of World Benefit

Peter Jones Transformation Design, Wu Wei

After attending a game-changing event, how do you share the experience so that a casual reader understands the impact? That, perhaps, there is a game being changed and that some projects we believed important before the event may appear less consequential after the event. The 2009 Global Forum, Business as an Agent for World Benefit at Case Western Reserve University created such an opportunity. The conversation challenged thinking about the fusion of design thinking with business education. For many of the management people in the room, I suspect the design side of the equation opened new possibilities for creative re-thinking their own commitments. But the “world benefit” theme blasted through my expectations. Speaker after speaker challenged us to realize the significance of the moment in history. After last year’s spectacular global failure of “business as usual,” a passionate group of influential thinkers are insisting that businesses do the right thing. A clear financial case has been made for sustainability; the most difficult changes remaining are cultural and social. Designers are also challenged to set aside their “known-knowns.” We like to …

The world is flat (lined)

Peter Jones Wu Wei

According to Thomas Friedman, we need a green revolution. And we will get one, by necessity and the need for local resilience in the face of the global wave of multiple defaults. Another green revolution is underway – a green (money) revolution, but perhaps not as we planned or designed. Allow me to post the most compelling of the last week’s economic news articles and a few responses. No analysis, just the linkage: Ray Dalio, Barron’s: Recession? No, It’s a D-process, and It Will Be Long Basically what happens is that after a period of time, economies go through a long-term debt cycle — a dynamic that is self-reinforcing, in which people finance their spending by borrowing and debts rise relative to incomes and, more accurately, debt-service payments rise relative to incomes. At cycle peaks, assets are bought on leverage at high-enough prices that the cash flows they produce aren’t adequate to service the debt. The incomes aren’t adequate to service the debt. Then begins the reversal process, and that becomes self-reinforcing, too. In the simplest sense, the country reaches …