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reinventing money for an endangered species...

See feedback and conclusions

GUIDE FOR PARTICIPANTS - this text was prepared for the four workshop participants: Ken Fairclough, Indy Johar, David Pinto and John Backwell as a discussion document, in advance of the Endgame Economics workshop that took place on 5th September 2012. Support team is John Wood, Ivan Nascimento and Ana Lisa Alperovich.

BACKGROUND CONTEXT - over the last few years, Western politicians have been preoccupied with the so-called 'economic crisis' that has mystified many and led to confusion, fear and suspicion. The popular consensus seems to be that we need a big increase in economic growth. HOWEVER - growth is a component of consumer spending, which contributes to climate change and other environmental problems. In 2012, atmospheric CO2 levels exceeded the much-feared ‘tipping point’ of 350ppm (Guardian, 1st June 2012) and the daily melting of ice in the Arctic is now 50% more than it was in 2007 Guardian, 27th August 2012. How can economics be harmonised with the ecosystem that underpins all human activities, including business?

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square-50cm-spacer.jpg Endangered Bison square-50cm-spacer.jpg Banknote


Please think about these questions :

  • 1. What is the purpose of money?
  • 2. How can we re-design money to make it work better?
  • 3. How will you use the recording of this workshop? (question for the organizers)

...PARTICIPANTS - keep your responses to yourself until you meet the other participants.

Our trading culture has long encouraged us to put values on individual resources. So it is easy to forget that we cannot get meaningful abundance by storing enormous quantities of a particular resource (e.g. gold). We only get it by combining qualitatively different things in an appropriate way. This idea is the primary focus of this workshop. Whenever a particular combination delivers more, or better, outcomes than its parts (added together) this is called synergy. But we tend to see synergy as less important than 'resources'. Traditional economics was based on the logic of non-renewable resources. Imagine owning 2 barrels of oil and deciding to sell half of your stock to a stranger. Although you have received money for the transaction you have 'lost' a barrel of oil. Over the last few hundred years, economic thinking was based on the logic of non-renewables - i.e. the Law of Diminishing Returns. Fortunately, as long as the sun shines, we can defy this law, because our solar income subsidises our energy requirements and enables to think about 'renewables'. For example, where oil is a non-renewable resource, ideas are infinitely renewable. This means that they are bound by the Law of Increasing Returns:

If 2 ideas are combined, how many new ones do we get? grey-spacer.png (answer=1)
If 3 ideas are combined, how many new ones do we get?(answer=3)
If 4 ideas are combined, how many new ones do we get?(answer=6)

A CREATIVE QUARTET: it may now be clear that starting with 4 things can deliver twice as many combinations (e.g. synergies) as starting with 3. For this reason our workshop will work as a 'creative quartet' consisting of Ken Fairclough, John Backwell, Indy Johar and David Pinto. Each will take part in a 15-minute meeting with each of the other three, to synergise their respective ideas or propositions. In the diagram below these (in total, six) meetings are represented by coloured rods that link the spheres (i.e. s1 to s6). This structure can also be seen as an ethical model in which actions can be shown as a quadratic set of ethical relations.

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WHAT DO THE COLOURS MEAN? - the colours mean nothing. Participants are arbitrarily assigned a colour (we thought that numbers or letters are too hierarchical).

THE MISSION - the main aim of the workshop is to find new synergies, which we usually find when we cultivate difference. However, synergy is everywhere, so we tend to overlook it. It can emerge at all levels and it can permeate our boundaries of understanding. For this workshop, some important synergies come together as the effectiveness of your teamwork. This means that the search for durable synergies may merge with the temporary synergies of your actions. This is why it is difficult to achieve within conventional hierarchical teams.

FLAT-STRUCTURED TEAMWORK IS DEMANDING - hierarchical teams are efficient for some tasks, but we believe that novel synergies are easier to locate within flat-structured teams. How much influence will you have over your group? Although you account (numerically) for 25% of your group of 4, you will be present and active for 50% of the proceedings (i.e. three of the six meetings). Also, as you will have worked in partnership with 100% of the group your ideas, conduct and attitudes may have an influence that permeates through the whole quartet. This is why some radical optimism is useful.

The schedule of activities simple. A 15 minute briefing session for the 4 participants ensures that everyone can focus onto the task in hand without hesitation or confusion. Each participant has a 15 minute bisociation sessions with each of the other three, in turn. This means that there are 3 parallel sessions.

MORE PRACTICAL OUTCOMES - to take initial ideas beyond the abstract idea of synergy you may like to reflect upon the basic needs of an island community. Thinking about food, shelter, mobility, energy, or clothing may be a way to harness ideas that may be incomplete or intangible.

10.00XX10.20XXXXteam briefingXXXXXXnervous excitement
10.20XX10.40XXXXJohnXbisociates withXDavidXXXXSYNERGY 1
10.2010.40XXXXKenXbisociates withXIndyXXXXSYNERGY 4
10.4011.00XXXXJohnXbisociates withXKenXXXXSYNERGY 2
10.4011.00XXXXDavidXbisociates withXIndyXXXXSYNERGY 5
11.0011.20XXXXJohnXbisociates withXIndyXXXXSYNERGY 3
11.0011.20XXXXDavidXbisociates withXKenXXXXSYNERGY 6
11.50XX12.00XXXXClosing ceremonyXXXXXXNational anthem

Please combine your responses to these questions with those of your (3) partner/s to discover new, beneficial synergies (at least one for each of the 3 encounters). The ultimate purpose of this metadesign workshop is to generate new idea/s that can be applied, usefully, in a practical context. Its principle aim is enable four participants to co-create synergies. However, some people find its tetrahedral format difficult to grasp, perhaps because it looks deceptively simple.

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METHODS - We will adapt the Creative Quartet format as the basis for six meetings between four invited experts. Each participant will meet with each of the other three in a 15-minute bisociation workshop. The 6 meetings will be run as a sequence of three pairs. The purpose of each meeting is not a truth-based discussion or debate - it is a practical, creative search for a new economic paradigm. We aim to develop a language that will respect (apparent) incommensurables and to find practical synergies within, beyond, or between them. The most important keyword here (see below) is synergy, which is an (undervalued) form of abundance that we can get by combining existing resources.

WORKSHOP PROTOCOLS - These 3 meetings are very short. Please conduct yourself as though they are your final act. This means being relaxed, breathing properly, watching and listening carefully to your own body and how it reacts to the situation. It also means listening carefully to the body language and words of your partner. Try to forget the normal habits of discussion - debate, rational sense-making, rhetorical point-scoring. You are licensed to say anything that comes into your head (it usually helps you to be more creative). But this also applies to your partner. Respect your partner's beliefs and perspectives with the same respect in which you hold your own. Use this balance to find new possibilities (e.g. new ways of saying things / things you like / good experiences / fun / complementarities / unexpected combinations / 'problems' that can be reframed to seem benign, or that cancel one another out).

keywordbrief definition
BisociationAvoids the polarizing effect of debating ideas by generating new ones
DebateTends to set up oppositional relations that can erode synergy.
EntredonneurshipOur word was intended as a counterpoint to 'entrepreneurship'
HolarchyA leaderless, non-hierarchical, self-organizing organism.
LanguagingThe means by which living organisms adapt and survive.
Manifold abundance grey-spacer.png Reminds us that we can innovate on behalf of many beneficiaries.
pre-purposeA collective, unconscious purpose that is yet to be identified.
ParadigmAn established order that steadfastly maintains its own identity.
Paradigm changeStrategic, simultaneous changes that catalyse a new order.
Radical optimismSystematically imagining beyond what is deemed possible.
SympoiesisThe socially transformative component within co-creativity.
SynergyA term describing the combinatorial nature of abundance.
TetrahedronTry to imagine this as 4 interconnected individuals (your group)
Wu weiThe self-reflexive art of acting at an auspicious time/place


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  • a) When things just go together.
  • b) Imaginable, desirable combinations.
  • c) Spotting complementarities or compatibilities.
  • d) Creation of affinities (e.g. precise culinary compatibilities).
  • e) Existing synergies that derive from a combination of other synergies.
  • f) New synergies that might emerge by combining existing synergies.

We aim to take documentary photographs, sound recordings and video footage throughout the workshop. This is because we wish to learn from we do, and to share it with others. As this kind of work is subtle and, often quite somatic, in nature we need to record the tone of voice, gestures and body language of our participants. Please let us know if you feel uncomfortable with any aspect of this process. We are a not-for-profit organization and will only use the documented material within the spirit of the Creative Commons License conditions that retains copyright on behalf of everyone. (see full conditions). No fees will be asked and no costs are expected for this workshop. We are happy to receive suggestions, donations & offers of support with events, etc.


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