Civil Sandbox

Here is the civil sandbox entry to the Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2009

Summarize the purpose and key elements of your strategy:
The Civil Sandbox is a proposition for a new kind of city building. As a Sandbox, the environment is designed to be dynamic and exploratory.

There are several key problems being adressed at it’s heart.

1 If you have a big idea, usually you are alone to begin with.
2 If you have an idea that does not fall into the mindset of those who currently hold power/finance then it may not receive support.
3 If you have a truly innovative idea it tends to have a relatively high risk of investment.
4 If you are not from a background that is supportive to your ideas, then you may find it extremely difficult to believe in yourself or your idea.
5 The majority of us do not have the capacity to realise ideas alone.
6 Organisations are full of people with ideas that are never taken forward due to the nature of the organisation.

A new, third-party space which is designed to explore those ideas that are not possible in the ‘real-world’ is the agenda of this building. It is a ‘virtual’ space where we can attempt to realise many of the ideas bubbling out of the general public.

Organisations of all kinds can participate and explore ideas and projects with a hugely reduced risk and on the whole – ease the process of exploration. If an idea doesn’t work, nobody loses much but if it works it could change the world.

The idea to have a new kind of city upgrade is already uncommon. A new form of permanent fixture in a city with a unique function does not appear very often. With this approach, the project has been designed to be very open and to acommodate anyone who needs such a space.

The dynamic nature of the environment of a civil sandbox is also a big step away from most approaches towards city buildings which usually have a set function led by a “top-down approach”. There is a custom virtual infrastructure that has been devised to allow an “internet logic” to exist in a physical space.

Describe the current stage of your initiative and your implementation plan over the next three years:
After eight years of independent research I have reached the stage where I am looking for the right support to remain independent while producing a properly funded research into the early implementation of the idea.

I have, over the years, identified many funding streams but most carry an agenda that disrupts the ‘public domain’ feeling that attracts many people to the project.

Over the next three years my plan is to organise a city-level event which represents the civil sandbox. This ‘Sandbox Festival’ is a ;ethod to involve a large number of people in an exploration of what a civil sandbox can mean.

This is done in a very active and involving way, and not only through a ‘document to document’ approach. Plans for the pilot event are well underway and the pilot event should take place in 2010.

After this, a series of such events moving from city to city to gather the networks and experience necessary to implement a trial phase of permanent city fixtures. This project must be built ‘in-progress’ and involving as many people as possible.

To achieve this I have enlisted many people from famous musicians to media/film networks, technology providers, students, journalists and many others. A festival event acts as a primal version of the building concept where the basic concepts can be built upon.

The Sandbox festival can be seen as a ‘special month in the city where it is okay to shoot for the moon’. The agenda is to encourage those dreamers in the city to really go for it and collectively upgrade the city within the concept of the festival.

Building on the successes of this event we can identify the best approaches towards really designing a permanent city building in the most open qnd exciting way possible.

Describe how your strategy meets the entry criteria (“What We’re Looking For”):
When I discovered that you are looking for a ‘trimtab’ my heart jumped. I’ve spent years talking to thousands of people at all levels to make sure that this strategy-cloud is intact, holistic and involving.

To insert an object like this into an existing system required a huge amount of thought-experimenting with as many aspects of the existing system as I could understand. This led me to speak to some very-high-level people who were unanymously fascinated by the approach and accompanying strategies.

Perhaps I can be so bold to say that I believe this is one of the projects that fits your requirements since it is truly a vast, involving idea that does not attempt to fix one or two problems but actually is a problem solving device. It can be used for 100s of years to come, since the need for change will be everpresent.

Describe the qualifications and experience of you and/or your team and your ability to execute your implementation plan:
I have a background of organising events, both small and large.

I have never done this before but believe that i have the ability to convince people from any relevant background who have the skills and knowledge to realise such a project. I believe this because I’ve spent the last years speaking to literally thousands of people and most of them zould contribute their skills to getting this idea going.

The thing that is missing is that the core team, myself and a few close contributers, have not acquired funding. I remained independent and unfunded to retain the integrity of the project.

You can see videos online about my previous work on city-level events and community actions involving experimental culture. I can show that there are many brilliant people out there who keenly support the development of this work.

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Comments

  1. Hi,

    I think this general description of your project is quite good, but it does feel something is still missing, to really picture «how everything will go, in this building, when it will be built». You do not say much more, than «this building will enable people with ideas, to meet and experiment, with low risks».

    You do describe, a bit, how it is very difficult, in today society, for these ideas to get out, but most people really never thought seriously about how to solve our problems (generally, they only think about «money», «politicians», and «scientists», without much idea, of what they really do, and can do, in today society), and the process of experimenting, and solving major problems, is really quite unknown, to most people. And they really understand even less, considering your project proposes a new approach, more global, more open, and more practical.

    You should really be careful about people telling you they understand, and are interested. They might indeed understand and be interested, by your dynamic approach, but without a really clear and profound vision, of how it will really go, once the building has been built (and how it is different, from today cultural centers, notably -although your document does insist on research, it might, again, not be that clear, in truth, for people who never really thought about this very global, open, and practical project), their interest might drop rapidly, notably when you will start talking about funding.

    This is really a new paradigm. Most people will only have a very blurry vision of it, if you do not insist on very practical matters, of «how it will go».

    Bye.

  2. Thanks NKohaty for your support and comments.

    I tend to avoid telling exactly HOW to do it, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are loads of event organisers out there and they have that knowledge already, like I do so I try to avoid those things which can be found elsewhere.

    For example, if I said that the building will invite new and emerging projects from around the world to come together and try to co-operate for 1 month within the space, is that concrete enough? We can invite people like yourself, for example, to bring your project to that lab environment and see what you can make of it.

    There would be a custom virtual-infrastructure to support activities in the building but again, I know companies building those technologies. Rather than build our own, we would invite such companies to showcase their tech in the building. I think the exact ‘who and what’ would be in the planning stage and we aren’t there yet.

    What if it isn’t concrete? The only concrete thing might be that 100 different kinds of organisations and 100s of different kinds of people that would never normally meet would have a space to try and work together to see what comes out? Is that not already interesting?

    Actually there are much more specific examples than that, but a new one comes out in almost every discussion I have. To take a step would be to get some of them going but without resources I cannot do that and without “concrete descriptions” i cannot get resources.

    Actually, I have some very specific examples written up in old documents, and yes it probably is time to go digging some of those out or rewriting them to help people to see exactly what will go on there.

    However, it should be noted that I have been ripped off before and if I provide a complete how-to with conrete instructions, then what’s to stop people running off with it and doing parts of it themselves? It has happened on several occaisions before and I’d rather not have it happen anymore.

    I guess what I can say is that I have a network of professionals who can achieve this, and can subcontract any and all of the skills needed to realise the early stages of these projects. I try not to say too much specifically because I know people who can and will draw up a solid plan when it is actually needed.

    Perhaps I could start a thread here called “How could the Civil Sandbox help with” and then if people post suggestions I can describe the possible solutions presenting themselves from the dynamic building, it’s participants and technologies.

    Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that a business plan for this project is not something to be rushed and definitely not something I could write. It’s actually quite a challenge to explore the creation of an open-source space within society and the closest model I can imagine at the moment is to use some kind of gaming model.

    Oh, one last thing to point out is that it is supposed to be a blurry vision also in some ways. It is not always necessary for people to walk into a building or a project knowing exactly what they can expect there, Everyone will have a different experience and having spoken to thousands of people about it, I’ve learned that the best way to describe it is in a way that attracts imaginative, intelligent, helpful people to respond to it.

    Like a real computer, there is no easy description to describe it to someone who doesn’t already know what it is. It is a fuzzy concept, even for those who understand a lot about it. I personally understand from the transitor level to the global meta-brain level and know vast amounts about how they do what they do, but it’s still only a tiny fraction of available knowledge of a computer.

    This is why i like the metaphor of the Social Computer because all we need to do is take a building and give it the same agenda. Make it open and reprogrammable and then we will be amazed and what people create with it when given the opportunity.

  3. (Sorry for the long reply 🙂 I, too, need to go on with my own project, so feel free to summarize, if you reply, as I’ll try to do so, next times :))

    I tend to avoid telling exactly HOW to do it, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are loads of event organisers out there and they have that knowledge already, like I do so I try to avoid those things which can be found elsewhere.

    Yeah, but what is important, is how this building will change these events, and their organization. This is the very idea. A few lines on the general concept, is not enough. People are used to hearing all kind of buzz, from advertisements. Even if your idea is quite deeper, they will have a hard time getting really interested, and take the time to really understand the idea fully.

    However, it should be noted that I have been ripped off before and if I provide a complete how-to with conrete instructions, then what’s to stop people running off with it and doing parts of it themselves? It has happened on several occaisions before and I’d rather not have it happen anymore.

    I do understand this feeling, as I often feel it myself (although I do have some even more important reason to hold back, notably because of the prejudices and taboos I reason, facing people’s fear of change fully, and the immediate consequences for them, of becoming more reasoned, and seeing the ideal clearly, while still having so many problems, in today society).

    However, you are trying to push for a more open and dynamic world. You just cannot hide the details, for years, and, at the same time, try to get more and more interest in your idea (both from possible investors, and from the general public). There is a limit, which is quite directly linked, to the amount of materials and details which are available, and, considering your idea, to your openess and dynamism.

    What is your experience with free software? You are reproducing the classical scheme of some software company which does not know much about openess, or just want some free publicity, and start a promotional campaign, on «open sourcing their product». Quite some interest ensue, but after a month, most everyone has left, because the company never seriously intended to live up to its promise.

    Of course, your case is completely different, but it is how most people will feel. If not betrayed, at least bored and weary.

    More importantly, you website is meant to be the reference on the civil sandbox project. If you don’t want people to pass you (if they really seriously could), simply lead the way (wasn’t it what you previously used for your own description? 😉 -remember I didn’t only tell you should not call yourself a leader, but to lead, in effect, so people recognize you as a leader (something which is indeed important, if you need money for your everyday life, today… -which I do too ^_^;)).

    Perhaps I could start a thread here called “How could the Civil Sandbox help with” and then if people post suggestions I can describe the possible solutions presenting themselves from the dynamic building, it’s participants and technologies.

    If you can get enough people to post suggestions, maybe, but you first need to get enough interest, and you will still need to summarize everything, clearly (having too many documents, in too many places, in too many different forms, tend to get people lost).

    Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that a business plan for this project is not something to be rushed and definitely not something I could write. It’s actually quite a challenge to explore the creation of an open-source space within society and the closest model I can imagine at the moment is to use some kind of gaming model.

    People would quickly get bored, with technical business details, anyway, and this is not main idea. Of course, it will dynamize businesses, both local and global ones, and make them more open, but the main idea, is what people will do with these buildings, and how it will change the society, and their everyday life. You can describe all this, with very general economic ideas (time, energy, people, materials, environment, experiments, etc.), which would apply to any kind of society, even non-monetary/non-exchange ones.

    Oh, one last thing to point out is that it is supposed to be a blurry vision also in some ways. It is not always necessary for people to walk into a building or a project knowing exactly what they can expect there, Everyone will have a different experience and having spoken to thousands of people about it, I’ve learned that the best way to describe it is in a way that attracts imaginative, intelligent, helpful people to respond to it.

    Well, yeah, they are trying to fill the void, with their own dreams 🙂

    Of course, you get very diverse ideas, which are quite important, for you to get a very global vision, and what is needed/interesting, and what is to avoid. But your role, as someone who thought, for years, about this idea, is to summarize and integrate all the ideas, from you and others, to effectively develop this project, in details, and push for its application.

    With details, people will really get hooked, with a now clear and applicable project. «We can start tomorrow». You might know how to, but the others simply don’t, and this is what is lacking, for them to really get interested fully (again, be careful between their immediate superficial interest, when they only discovered something «new and refreshing» -something which any kind of buzz, can create, in today society-, and their really deep interest, when they fully understand what it is really about, and how it will change their live).

    Your project is open and dynamic. You shouldn’t fear detailing things. The dreams won’t dry up. They will be all the more radiant, now they will have solid roots into reality, to grow, up and up, everywhere.

    I never had so many ideas, until I started writing them, and organizing them better.

    While others reading these ideas, might mold these people a bit, it is up to you, to give them a global enough vision, with enough details, so they can find themselves in this vision, and be free. The goal is even for them to discover their truer self, and be even more free. This is the very nature of all individual and social real developments, which your project is meant to be part of.

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