I remember, as if it were yesterday, that day in 1999 when Federico (‘egg’ for friends) entered my house in San Telmo, went to my computer and typed: Google. Immediately a blank page with a small window appeared to enter the search word. This was an incredible (minimalist) experience, compered to the Yahoo browser page full of advertising that I used at that moment. Google became a part of my life until a couple of years ago when I discovered the business model that was behind that minimalist experience. 

In the beginning, it was very promising, and I was fascinated with their services, until the moment I knew what their business model was: to monetize our data. I realized they become an enormous surveillance machine, without even asking us permission, well they did it slowly with the fine print. Then many other companies came as well, all with the same business model: ‘sharing is caring’ was the motto.

I suspected ‘something’ with that motto from the beginning, I felt something was wrong with it, but I didn’t know what it was until 2012, when I came across people like Shoshana Zuboff, Richard Stallman, Douglas Rushkoff or Aral Balkan, they opened my eyes. I discovered a new vision of technology based on human rights and ethics. 

I grew up knowing that opening a letter addressed to other person was an illegal act. Well, this is what Google and Facebook (among others) do everyday, letting algorithms scan our emails and ‘private’ messages, building ‘profiles of ourselves’. Yes, ‘private messages’: they altered the meaning of this term for the new generations.

I think we should be aware as society about the fact that a human right like the right to privacy is in danger. We accept a loss in stages of our privacy in exchange of ‘free’ technologies like superpower emails, like when Europeans gave mirrors to native Americans in exchange for their lands. But what worries me the most is that we don’t care much about it, this is not an important issue in the newspapers. 

I really hope it is a matter of time. The advance of technology happened very fast and now we are becoming more aware about the possibility of re-mastering technology for our own benefit. A great social design challenge for the coming years. 


More information:

This video of Aral Balkan presentation at The Big Brother awards in Amsterdam is from 2014. But it is still current!

”It’s in the corporations’ interests to make it easy to share your data (with them) in a way that is entirely unprotected. That’s how they make their money. It leaves us all as helpless as children when it comes to our privacy. This is why we need to create alternative technologies, and educate people about why these alternatives are important.” 

Aral Balkan


Shoshana Zuboff explaining Surveillance Capitalism in this VPRO Dutch Documentary of October 2019. And here the English version.

”These economic imperatives erode democracy from below and from above. At the grassroots, systems are designed to evade individual awareness, undermining human agency, eliminating decision rights, diminishing autonomy and depriving us of the right to combat. The big picture reveals extreme concentrations of knowledge and power. Surveillance capitalists know everything about us, but we know little about them. Their knowledge is used for others’ interests, not our own.

Surveillance capitalism thrives in the absence of law. In a way, this is good news. We have not failed to rein in this rogue capitalism; we’ve not yet tried. More good news: our societies successfully confronted destructive forms of capitalism in the past, asserting new laws that tethered capitalism to the real needs of people. Democracy ended the Gilded Age. We have every reason to believe that we can be successful again.”

Shoshana Zuboff


Check also the article I wrote about the quick-scan ‘In search of Ethical Technologies’ for

A Goood Foundation:

In search of ethical Technologies

” Big tech Internet Thinker Douglas Rushkoff states in his book Team Human that digital media have an anti-humanistic agenda. Reclaim our humanity, he argues.”

Very interesting vision about our technological future: How do we stay human in this technological revolution? 

Watch the video here

This video is on You Tube. For videos that are only on YouTube (unfortunately, a lot), you can search for and watch them on DuckDuckGo (an alternative for google search engine) for better privacy protection via YouTube’s “youtube-nocookie” domain.




Being aware about how different cultures understand Time is essential for multicultural collaboration. 

This study and article written by Richard Lewis, makes clear that if we are able to activate our empathy, we can value other ways of acting, thinking and doing. And that sometimes it is just a matter of relaxing and enjoying wasting time, or rather win it!

” Time is seen in a particularly different light by Eastern and Western cultures, and even within these groupings assumes quite dissimilar aspects from country to country.

In the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Mexico employ time in such diametrically opposing manners that it causes intense friction between the two peoples.

In Western Europe, the Swiss attitude to time bears little relation to that of neighboring Italy.

Thais do not evaluate the passing of time in the same way that the Japanese do. In Britain the future stretches out in front of you. In Madagascar it flows into the back of your head from behind….”

Read the full article here

We meet our friends, family and even new acquaintances with a hug and a kiss; anything else is considered rude.

Yes, we are like that! Living in North Europe is often, literally and figuratively, cold.

Interesting article and research about ‘personal space’ in different cultures, highlighting Argentinian ‘kiss and hug’ culture:

Link to article

I wonder if there is more research done regarding the way this customs affect our quality of life and relate to social anomalies like loneliness and depression. 

In the frame of a Masterclass organised by the Municipality of Amsterdam, Goood and its partners Pakhuis de Zwijger, Metabolic and Space & Matter gave a workshop session about the bottom-up circular development of Amsterdam Noord, pointing the importance to work cross-sectoral, including CREATIVES for the search of effective solutions.

Our meeting inside the Crossboat on the Ceuvel consisted of three presentations and a discussion between experts from Amsterdam and the Argentinian delegation. Caro Isern, architect, social designer and co-founder of a goood foundation, started off with a presentation about the power of bottom-up approach in urban development. She stressed the importance of design in order to accelerate the transition to a sustainable environment. Design can be a way to overcome the paradox that we cannot solve problems with the same way of thinking that we used to create the same problems in the first way.

Read the whole article written by Jan van’t Hek from Pakhuis de Zwijger here



Pakhuis de Zwijger, A Goood Foundation, and Volpi Urbane launched the first City Embassy in Latin America.

Pakhuis de ZwijgerA Goood Foundation, and Volpi Urbane initiated a cooperation to establish a network of city embassies in Latin-America with the aim of making a bridge for exchange of knowledge and experience for nowadays social and environmental city challenges in both continents (Europe and Latin America). The City Embassy Buenos Aires is the first one of Latin America. It is contributing to the making of the creative ecosystem in the city to empower creatives and citizens to contribute solving social and environmental themes.

During the economic mission of the City of AmsterdamCaro Isern, director of A Goood Foundation, founded the City Embassy Buenos Aires last Saturday 18th June in appearance of the Mayor of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan, the director Creative Industries of the City of Buenos Aires Diego Radivoy, scientific director of the AMS Institute Arjan van Timmeren, and member of the Dutch Creative Council’s Top team and CLICKNL board Jann de Waal.


Proud to be part of the Amsterdam delegation that visit Buenos Aires & Sao Paulo during the visit of Mayor van Eberhard van der Laan, from 16th to 21st June.
Representing A Goood Foundation & Pakhuis de Zwijger, pointing in the government agenda the importance of working together with the bottom-up creative movement in the process of sustainable urban & rural development.

Report of the wide exploration project is online, take a look and stay tuned, we are cooking up the next step of the international collaboration project with Argentina and Latin America.

Read Report Hola Argentina

In the framework of the project Patch Club, we developed a talent development training for two groups of women working in sewing ateliers in Amsterdam New-West to stimulate them to start their own ‘fashion business’. Of course, focusing on sustainable fashion. Research activities have been very inspiring!

Our goal is:

To inspire and accelerate the transition towards building sustainable communities, by initiating and supporting projects that:

– Inspire, raise awareness & transfer knowledge on sustainable (design & art) practices.

– Create new work-practice opportunities in the field of social design & sustainable development.

– Work together with (public & private) organisations to creatively meet the social, economical and environmental challenges.

Our Board members:

Kajetan Hetzer, sustainable specialist – Waste Foundation and director Social Equity Fund.

Jet van Dijk, director of Yellow Research.

Ans Stoub, all round professional in the field of communication, PR, education and business.

We are working on different projects and on the website: www.agooodfoundation.org

Stay tuned! email us if you want to be updated!

Reflexions (Theory) from the practice.

At school, at work, at home or in the neighbourhood:

Three pillars in participatory design practices:

1. Inspiration

People need to be inspired. So the question is what inspire them?

This is a continuing searching, always worth.

2. Awareness

People need to know why they should do something, collaborate, etc…

– Translate complexity in an easy to understand story.

– Let them discover the challenge.

3. Knowledge & tools transfer

To act, do things, people need to have tools, know how to use them and recreate them based on their own talent.

We are starting the development of a ‘goood’ project:

Welcome Patch Club!

Patch Club is a research and design strategy that aims to:

– Build a community integrating topics like: social interaction, (fashion)design, circular economy (reusing, repairing, upgrading), local initiatives & women entrepreneurship.

– Act as an accessible social design school, rising awareness, transferring knowledge and learning by doing.

– Impulse and develop enterprises in the social craft-production sector.

Last March we had an inspiring first research-workshop with our partners and friends Carmen Marcus and Rubia Oehlers from Cultuurhuis in Amsterdam Nieuw-West at the Coop Westside. Together with designers Beatriz Fernandez and Daniela Castelbranco, involved in the project, we got a better understanding of the women’s needs & the added value of our design approach for the potential local social enterprises.

More about this strategy will follow, hier or in the website of the foundation: Stay tuned!

Another frequently asked question…

Again Donella:

Resilience has many definitions, depending on the branch of engineering, ecology, or system science doing the defining. For our purposes, the normal dictionary meaning will do: “the ability to bounce or spring back into shape, position, etc., after being pressed or stretched. Elasticity. The ability to recover strength, spirits, good humor, or any other aspect quickly.”

Systems need to be managed not only for productivity or stability, they also need to be managed for resilience— the ability to recover from perturbation, the ability to restore or repair themselves.

Learning the ability to be resilience as persons and as communities is crucial for sustainable development. Hier is an interesting article in Spanish about learning how to improve our personal resilience.

If you have so integrated and intuitive understanding of ‘the meaning of something’ it is sometimes difficult to define it and explain it for other people. Some people ask me what do you mean with systems? What is a system? I like the definition of Donella Meadows, a great referent in sustainable development (form scientific sector). She says:

A system isn’t just any old collection of things. A system* is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something. If you look at that definition closely for a minute, you can see that a system must consist of three kinds of things:

– elements,

– interconnections, and

– a function or purpose.

For example, the elements of your digestive system include teeth, enzymes, stomach, and intestines. They are interrelated through the physical flow of food, and through an elegant set of regulating chemical signals. The function of this system is to break down food into its basic nutrients and to transfer those nutrients into the bloodstream (another system), while discarding unusable wastes.

In a System all parts are interconnected and have a common purpose. If we can learn to think, act and create like (natural) systems do, we will be able to achieve better solutions for our current and future challenges.

It’s interesting to see that in many fields of social development ‘encourage entrepreneurship’ is already a key element and the focus of many successful programs. No matter whether it is education or social care programs like empowerment of elderly, young people or women in neighbours. The concept of ‘entrepreneurship’ stimulating people talents and own ideas is an important trend and validated concept from the last years.

Next to this is also proved by many examples the effectiveness of working on a small scale, keeping it very personal by systems that include adaptability and customisation.

A good example is the Finnish education system, that scores as one of the best in Europe, where children attend with the least amount of time at school (compared with other countries) and learn in a playful way. The focus in this system is to encourage children own talent and creativity in a very personal way. Here you can read an article about it (in dutch).

Also regarding education, we see a big trend in America and other countries with more than 2 million cases of homeschooling, where the focal point is the kid and their own interests and talents.

An inspiring video that shows this trend can be seen here. A young of 12 years old that designs his own education with the help of his parents and local network.

In Germany, the model of ‘more generations’ community centers based in the human need of diversity of generations interaction, also operates with an important component of entrepreneurship. This is an inspiring example for The Netherlands. The Dutch broadcaster VPRO did an interesting research in this Tegenlicht broadcast: looking for inspiring examples that show us how we can do things better in the Netherlands.

The success of these systems has to do with the created feeling of ownership by people and attention for their own needs, increasing their self-esteem. In the Netherlands we need to try out more models that work within this principles.

I was in Paris and went to the exhibition of Sonia Delaunay. It was extremely inspiring. It is amaze the amount of work she did herself within many different disciplines and in collaboration with others (paintings, films, furniture, interiors, textile and fashion design…). Interesting to have known more about her life: She worked with her all family (husband and son). I didn’t know that during her last years she was working with a Russian women’s atelier, creating textile patterns with them. Just google her if you need some inspiration in your work (whatever your work is about)!

Next to interesting advise commissions and coaching the set-up of innovative concepts. I’m working with a multidisciplinary team on the development of a new Foundation that will be busy executing innovative projects to find solutions for social and environmental challenges of our communities, generating multiple cash flows solutions. How? Optimising collaboration!

Stay tuned…

Since 2004 I change the direction of my profession, from being a full time architect that worked in different kind of construction commissions to be a social strategy developer, working together with different stakeholders to develop projects that create value in many aspects, value for the local community, for the people and companies involved in the project and for the environment. I didn’t quite completely my activities as architect. I use my design skills to co-create products and spaces to achieve more impact implementing these social strategies. Some examples are the Exhibition of Desycling Amsterdam in 2008 or Van Recycling tot Redesign in 2006.

The design of social strategies is intensive and heartwarming work. It is not about making a plan from the studio, but it is about making a plan together with many participants. Going out and talk with many people. It requires much listening, empathy, and team work. I believe this kind of work will be more and more common in the future, as we are switching from ego designers ‘that come with the fantastic solution’ to facilitators, activators of change. Check projects labeled as ‘social design’ to learn more about these strategies.

We need to develop many social and psychological skills in order to implement social design strategies successfully. The secret is to be open and willing to develop skills that you even never before imagine you will develop. I believe the best way to learn is willing to learn, and by doing it. It is like being mother, nobody teaches you how to be a good mother. It is a matter of willing and feeling. If you really want to become a great mother or father and start asking yourself ‘how’ questions during the process, you will be always in the right path!

In the next years I will focus myself on transferring knowledge & experience (even more than in the past) to young professionals. Letting them the space to learn, facilitating the social design process in the practice. If you want to know more about the plans and if you are interested in this subject, feel free to contact me, there is much to do!

I was last month in my lovely Buenos Aires again. I wrote an article over an exchange program regarding design & sustainable development I’m working on. I share it here:

The big challenge!

The environmental challenges of Buenos Aires are quite the same as years ago but getting worse every year because of climate change effects.  On top of the rapid growth in population (slums). Reboratti (argentinean environmental scientist) in a recent interview, described 4 important interrelated, environmental problems to work on:

1. The solid waste (in Buenos Aires we produce 1 kilo of trash per person per day)

2. The contamination of rivers and canals.

3. The contamination and lack of biodiversity in our farming landscape and how this is negatively modifying our natural landscape.

4. The lack of awareness among the population.

Next to this, the social and health problems (not listed here) remain a big challenge as the slums in the city have grown 50% in the last 9 years.

Fortunately, there are initiatives and people taking action to implement change in many sectors. Here below are some examples of  these type of people (friends and new contacts) I met while on my trip.

Good initiatives

El CheLA, A77, m7red..

In Buenos Aires City, I had the opportunity to talk to Gustavo Dieguez and Lucas Gilardi from A77 as well as, Mauricio Corbalan and Pio Torroja from m7red. Their work shows a discovery of new role for architects. One  that tries to contribute to society’s challenges.

I was invited to the initiative ‘El gran Aula’ of A77 in collaboration with cheLA Foundation. The project is an event-installation of wood modules (classrooms) that are set up at the local ‘Plaza’ (in this case, plaza  Parque Patricios). Each module offers people an ‘open school idea’ around different topics: photography, design, music and meals.

If you want to learn more check these links:

El Gran Aula

Centro Cultural Nomade at Proa

El CheLA is a great initiative started by Fabian Wagmister. It hosts different social enterprises like Ashoka, Socialab, Njambre, A77 and more.

Having a coffee in the beautiful Bar Celta, Mauricio Corbalan, from m7red and involved in GarageLAB, explained the project “que pasa riachuelo?”. This is a cross-sector research and pollution- information -mapping. It represents a milestone in Argentinan environmental history: it is the first pollution Supreme Court lawsuit, initiated by citizens. Its judgement must be fulfilled by the three governments: the National, Buenos Aires province and Buenos Aires City.

I talked shortly with Paula Cardenau from Njambre, with Matias Kelly from Ashoka and with Jorge (Yoyo) Riva from Socialab. They are working to empower and scale social enterprises from the business sector.


I visited my friend architect Mederico Faivre, and he showed me the great building renovation work they are doing in the Unqui (Universidad de Quilmes). They were able to recycle 7800 tons of metal of the old textile factory.

Beside the building, the Unqui has an interesting program ‘extending the university to the community’. They have a workshop program where people (that have no access to education) can learn a practical job, predominately a craft activity: carpenter, sewing, etc. I see much opportunities to fulfil these programs with design activities, involving designers and other disciplines as well to make more impact for the local community. We will work out a collaborative program to make this happen.

Read more about the Unqui programs here

CEP goes on

It was nice to see Carlos Levinton as well from the CEP (FADU) after many years. They are working with the concept of eco-centros in different places in the province of Buenos Aires. He explained la ruca technologica, a project  they did in the south of the country in collaboration with many people (Ingeniero Jacobacci, Rio Negro) and financed by the National government in 2013. It was the collaborative construction of a cultural eco-centre with volcanic ash. They made a publication with manuals that show among other things, how to build a dry toilette, solar kitchens and grow native endangered plant sort.

It would be interesting to know how they continue sharing these technologies nowadays as I understood it was only a one time project.

There is much more…

I met as well architect Martin Zaitch. He is working as a freelance architect for the local government and most interesting is his architecture work in the slums.

I got an invitation to assist to an event of Proyecto Habitar en la FADU, great initiative, but I didn’t have time! I would like to visit them in the next trip.

As well as Project Ciudad Roca Negra of Ariel Jacubovich! More in spanish here

Buenos Aires City

I see Buenos Aires City still with so many challenges to give address! For instance in my old neighbourhood, San Telmo, there is much to do!

I was happy to experience some encouraging improvements:

Biking the city!

One of the improvements is the bike circuit  the ‘bici senda’.  They have extended the circuit. Each time more people are using it. It is not the most pollution free city to bike around yet. And so there is much to do in the city to make it healthier.  There is more awareness of pollution and this bike circuit is definitely a good start!

Read more:

Eco Bici Buenos Aires 

Also nice project of photograph Enrico Fantoni, BiciBA that shows how biking is expanding.

Urban restoration

La Usina del Arte’ is an industrial monument building recovered last year. The citizens gained Museum and Cultural Center from this old factory Usina from the Italo electric company.

The recovery of this monument building is part of a plan to integrate the abandoned southern sector with the city center. The building is very well restored. Simple and effective reminds me of the Tate Gallery in London. What better for Buenos Aires than a place to house the highly talented local artists! Well done! Bien hecho!

Another nice example of social-urban restoration, still in the planning phase, is Puente Alsina.

The local government will recover another forgotten building, Alsina Bridge. Their aim is social integration through cultural activities, like a circus school, learning to make the local musical instruments bandoneon and schools for facade restoration!

Read more in spanish here.

The city government also implemented a farming school program.

I see there are great efforts, but I also see the need of connecting these programs with other sectors and disciplines and the local community, in order to include these activities as daily habits.

Conclusions and opportunities

1 There is need of an integrated vision on the current challenges.

2 The need of design and space for practicing a new profession for instance in architecture, urbanism.

3 Integration of disciplines and sectors in the solutions (public, private, academy/science, ngo’s)

4 Longer term planning, projects that continue to grow over time. This is an opportunity for adaptable and repetitive systems.

5 In general ,there is not much awareness about the blue / circular economy.(see link)  There is much to do to spread the knowledge with practical examples and working pilots.

Some examples!

1 Solid waste

is still a big challenge as most of the waste goes to landfill. The law Basura Cero has not been successful. The quantity of plastic bags and short-life packaging is huge. I  think that part of the solution could be to regulate (stop!) the use of plastic, and start producing bags with materials that don’t pollute the environment in their production process and gain value as well being used as fertilizers  and compostable materials).

The City government has achieved charging money for plastics bags in supermarkets. That is a solution in “thinking in doing ‘less bad’,” but alas, this is not solving the source of the problem. I know it is not easy to removed a large oil product industry, but don’t you think it’s time to promote healthy industries and circular business?!

Some good news: In the University of Buenos Aires a group of scientists developed a organic cleaning system using specific mushrooms that clean the sewers of paper and textile industries

Read more in spanish here!!! : )

2 Buenos Aires performances rock!

Art and culture (mainly theatre, music, dance) are unique added values of the City! Wonderful how much high quality and quantity of art is available in This City! The question that I ask myself  is “isn’t there a way to apply this amazing talent to address the environmental and social challenges”

3 Integrating design with never before combined disciplines

Good work from the City Government is for instance the vegetable garden programs in basic schools. Well done. Bien Hecho!

The next step will be the opportunity to involve other actors in the project to make it more ‘realistic’, and turn it into a community out reach program.. If we could relate this project with the neighbourhood, including professional gardens, each school in connexion with a restaurant that harvest their production. Imagine mobile dinning-rooms/vegetable gardens that integrate art and food.!!! Yum! Here we could generate impact in the community and create awareness regarding healthy food, waste=food, circular natural cycles.

This is a great study, Suzanne Simard shows that all trees in a forest ecosystem are interconnected, with the largest, oldest, “mother trees” serving as hubs. The underground exchange of nutrients increases the survival of younger trees linked into the network of old trees.

I remember at school studying ‘the tree’ drawing it in detail from leaves, stem and roots, the photosynthesis, the  ecosystem around it but seeing it as individual. Though I loved that lesson, I really would have love a second lesson drawing the section of all these trees working together as a system!

Let’s mimic nature and build (human) systems with the same resilience and regeneration properties!

Update dec 2016: Read here an interview to Suzanne Simard.

When Rina, my mother-in-law, saw how good Sol (daughter of 2 years old) blow her nose, asked me: how did you get her to do it so well? I don’t know, I just taught her… was my answer.

After her question, I noticed I was completely unaware of how the whole process has been until she asked me. I used an empathic design approach to teach her how to blow her nose. Here below I listed the steps to the result:

1. First I observed how other parents did it. It resulted to be aggressive for the kids, most kids hate it. For many of them blowing their nose was a very traumatic experience. The parents want to take out the snot very fast and the kids are running away in panic or crying during the forced situation. This happens because the parents mostly focus in what they want to achieve (The Result: take out the snot from the nose of his/her kid) instead of thinking in a more comprehensive and long term situation: I want my kid to learn how to blow her/his nose and having a nice experience doing it. As an effective design solution:

2. What I did secondly was to talk to her and explain her that by blowing her nose she would feel better and would breath deeper. You must think this is too much for a 1,5 years old kid. First mistake! They understand much more than what we think, even as babies!

3. I show her how I did it (fun)

4. Luz, her bigger sister (4 years old) shows her as well (more fun)

5. We put in front of her nose the tissue paper but we didn’t do anything else, asking her: do you want to try? This took a couple of weeks. In the meantime Luz was blowing her nose and breathing deeply, playing.

6. In a moment we put the tissue in front of her nose and she exhaled at one nose and then at the other! She was so proud of herself! Now with 2 years old, she takes the tissues and does it by herself.

So Rina, this is how I, or rather we, did it. Thanks for asking!

Practicing yoga is one of the best habits I have developed.  Yoga’s vision and practice correlates to my vision and practice  of design. I learn so much practicing it.

If I compare the practice of yoga with other practices, I can pinpoint 3 things that apply in other processes like the creative process:

Important aspects learned from yoga practice:

1- Work from inside out (focus on the process)

How you approach the challenge: from inside out.

In yoga if you want to do a pose focusing on the end result from a photo, you will not get the result.  If you do it from inside out following the awareness of your body, putting all your intentions in the process you will be able to do it and have a great result.

2- Integrated (comprehensive) & collaborative

You can’t separate your body in parts, if you want to achieve flow and take your body to an awareness stage you need to feel your body as a whole and find the balance within all parts to work together and collaborate towards the final result.

3- Develop the habit

It is all about developing habits, it is not one isolated action. It is about taking actions and try 1, 2, 10, times.  Keep trying to get to next levels.


It was nice to attend Pauli’s  lecture last Thursday (10-10), Day of the sustainability and by coincidence my birthday. Thanks Jan (Jongert) for this birthday present!

For those who don’t know about the Blue Economy, a video explanation.

Nice to learned in general about initiatives they are carrying out within the Blue Economy. His message was clear and not new: We need to re-industrialise Europe. We need to redesign the new industrialised era with the mindset of gaining more and more from what we have. Multiple cash flows business plans.

And how? By doing it. No more analyzing. Europe analyses too much, we need more ACTIONS. We need many many innovative entrepreneurs putting blue economy ideas into action. Inspiring!

Jan Jongert from Superuse studios set up a Linkedin groep about the Blue Economy, in collaboration with Zeri and Gunter Pauli: If you want to contribute or get inspired about the blue economy you may join it: Blue Economy by Gunter Pauli Linkedin Groep

Future lectures

I have attended many other presentations about circular economy, closing the loop…. It is so great to see that this topic is becoming important in many sectors.

Like in Pauli’s conference I noticed still the trend to talk only from the successes and this selling kind of pitch ‘we are doing great or we have the formula’. While, I consider this quite inspiring,  I’m kind of missing a more reflective and critical lecture approach, where people share mistakes and their learning process and how they approach their current challenges.

Perhaps the thing is that people still want to convince or sell ideas to a massive audience or people still willing to hear that sales pitch?

I envision for the future a less selling, ego kind of conversation, with more and many great questions. Sharing difficulties will show that we are a step ahead!

Last Friday I had the pleasure of participating in the seminar ‘The Circular City’ in Amsterdam. The talks from experts in sustainable design were inspiring, John Thackara, Michiel Schwarz and Fuad Luke. I am pleased to know that the values ​​proposed in our design activity since 2005, are the values ​​to follow ‘now’ according to these three gurus of sustainable design.

In 2005, when we began to carry out projects that generated social value (connections between disconnected groups of neighbours), environmental value (through ‘up-cycling design products), awareness generation and knowledge- transfer to people, it was not popular this kind of multiple (comprehensive) approach at all. And not many talked about it in 2005.

It was very difficult for our clients to understand that all the above aspects  somehow had to integrate. It was too much to understand for them. It is true that it was, and it cost us explaining time. Luckily now there are more people trying to explain these things and give new names to what we do. (Check: sustainist design)

We, in the meantime, continue doing it, although what we do at first have no names and many did not understand it. Important is to not lose the conviction and to know that we can say now, “look, in 5 years this (weird approach) is going to have a great name, let’s go ahead now!”

This is a recurring topic in my life. Being creative, innovative, it is sometimes difficult to accept that things do not change as fast as we would like. Here, a concrete example: We are discussing at one of the tables in Pakhuis de Zwijger about how we can implement the idea of ​​the circular city in our daily tasks. In the centre of the table is a bowl with mixed waste in it: an apple with traces of plastic packaging of coffee creamer and paper of the sugar that someone took. This happens in a seminar about the circular city. Not to mention the cookies we consumed, only circular in their shape. Anyway, I found these contradictions a good topic to discuss within the group. We set up in the spot two bowls with two streams of material (organic and inorganic).

We don’t practice what we preach? Or we preach what we are not able to practice yet? If we have this kind of materials and food in this type of seminar, what can we expect somewhere else? I don’t want this to be a strict critic for the event organizers, but rather offering constructive criticism.

I see two things:
One, is that we often coexist with these contradictions, learn to be aware of them and try to improve them on the spot. To inspire others to do so is a job in itself, and is always worthwhile.

Secondly, to include designers in the organisation of the next event: is a good idea! True, we have a special eye for detail and it seems essential. “God is in the detail”, Mies van der Rohe used to say. And I would say ‘The Circular Economy is in the detail’.

Note: I lost the photo we took that evening. The photo above is taken during a Cradle 2 Cradle seminar in Amsterdam, where the same reflexion applies.

Like Buckminster Fuller said:

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

How can we change the model if we don’t have the knowledge and tools to change it?

Douglas Rushkoff made an interesting point with his book  Program or be Programmed – TEN COMMANDS FOR A DIGITAL AGE, about the use of technology in our digital age.

He says: The real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? “Choose the former,” writes Rushkoff, “and you gain access to the control panel of civilisation. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make.”

Hear his statement in the video above.

In 1986 I had computer lessons at highschool, in Quilmes, Argentina. We had DOS programming and another system I can’t remember twice a week for two years. Perhaps that’s why I’m handy with computers…

But seriously, I can’t understand why education about operating systems was taken out of the school curriculum. Why are our kids still learning (almost) the same stuff that we learned at school? It is strange that we are not teaching our kids the language of the future. I don’t believe we all have to become programmers, but like Rushkoff said, we need to understand at least that there are other languages and be more familiar with them, to be able to choose between created systems or to further developing them and creating new ones.

I do believe we need to transfer more technology knowledge to the new generations. Not isolated but together with other knowledge which is important for the challenges of future generations: like food, health, spirituality, sustainability. But it is clear that language of technology and operating systems is an important part of the future.

How can we give our kids more tools to change our systems into more humans and integrated ones?

There is much to do! And we are still in time!

I was so happy to discover the work of architect Michel Reynolds and his Earthship’s books in 1997! The books had all drawings, manuals and tips on how to build Earthships. It was like having the first recipes housing book in my hands! It was something very special. But not only for the great and practical housing design that they developed from the early 70’s. But for the way he was communicating and expanding the knowledge!

I had the opportunity to made a research about Earthships construction system for Stichting Recyclicity when I came to The Netherlands in 2003. Check it here.

I believe the designers of the future will be working on making guides, drawing, manuals and guiding people to make stuff or projects themselves. This will have different nuances, from giving the recipe for a house at a specific location, download furniture or fashion manuals to wider design concepts workshops and guides to let people develop their own designs. We go from an ego designer era to one of facilitators, assistants that will lead to empower people!

Inspiration: If you want to know more about Michel Reynolds watch this film.


This is a post part of a series about female approach to sustainability. Inspired by Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Donella Meadows, Olga Cossettini and many more…

Donella Meadows “Down to Earth” speech delivered in 1993 at a Sustainability Conference in Costa Rica. About the importance of having a vision in life.

How to train our ability to envision together? I think there is no other answer than:

Through working together!

Carlo Petrini, started the slow movement in 1989. I heard of him through a friend of mine in the 90’s, who was very into the slow food movement.

Carlo explains very well why the approach must be holistic, and this applies to other systems as well. He says:

You can’t talk about food without talking about environment,

You can’t talk about health without talking about the quality of food.

Everything is connected!

Food is culture, is environment, is health, is spirituality.

It is an extraordinary and exciting job!

How can we achieve more impact working on social and environmental challenges?

– Integrate profit value in social & environmental design initiatives. Creating social, environmental and profit value.

– Working together within our sector (design) and cross-sectors:

– Bridge the gap between creative people and organisations that ‘need’ social innovation design like Government, Social Institutions (Educational, Health, etc) and Companies with ambitious Social Responsibility goals, creating effective collaboration between the design sector and other sectors.

– Simplifying the whole design process from creation to implementation:

– Integration of business and social/environmental design tools.

– Optimising the team construction in the design process.

– Creating more opportunities for young talents to ‘learn by doing’ designing the challenges. As well, generating employment opportunities for them.

Busy enough!

If you want to know how I’m trying to achieve these points and if you have ideas related to this coming from the design sector or from other sectors, please contact me to work together!

After having achieved great results the last years within different projects and strategies it is time for taking perspective and reflexion.

The projects we have undertaken had great local results and served as great examples of actions that have achieved sustainability in different dimensions at the same time: what I call integrated design approach.

One icon example is the set up of a design-production facility in which a group of homeless people from Amsterdam design products. The production is made in collaboration with local shops and organisations from the neighbourhood that provide their clean waste materials, sell and promote their products. These include paper notebooks from flour sacks provided by the local bakeries and a line of jewellery from coffee bean bags provided by local coffee corners.

We trained the workshops leaders and the homeless people on design skills (sustainable design concepts, etc) and we produce together 4 lines of designed products during 3 years that were sold in local shops.

Our team was multidisciplinary, formed by experienced designers and starters. We had ambitious objectives. We wanted to achieve people, planet and profit values for the set up of the enterprise. The organisation who contracted us was happy with the goal of generating an interesting activity for the homeless coming to work to the design facility. What it made already successful and a great start!

Our added value and paradoxically what made the way more difficult was to focus on achieving the multiple values, following our vision. Just because we think we can do it aside the clients goals, so why not doing it goood, from the beginning. We achieved more than what we were asked to, and we and our client were happy for that. We learned that working in the right solutions, connecting people and doing many trials to enhance the social cohesion within the groups take much time but worth for the common results.

Way of working

I was reflecting much on this way of working, actually my way of working since I remember. I think it is much how designers/artists work. Trying to succeed a commission achieving the goal of the client and our own ideal goals, in my case achieving sustainable success at different levels, for the people, for the environment and for the profit of the project.

Achieving multiple goals is a requirement of sustainable development. I reflect on a couple of things, which I believe it can improve the next design interventions:

First thing I realised is the need of an independent consultancy team. This team will support the designers facilitation team, check and let us see things we do not see while doing the project. With ‘us’ I mean the whole team: designers and stakeholders involved in the project. This consultancy team can help for instance to deal with negotiations about designers expectations (vision) and expectations of the organisation that is investing in the project.

Secondly, having even more attention for the starters training (internships), achieving continuation work. We did this very consciously and we trained talented starters on social design issues. Though I think we can include a continuation plan in collaboration with the client to be able to achieve training continuation and employment opportunities (longer term) for the starters.

These reflections and many chats with other social designers & colleagues are guiding me to the development of a new way of working on sustainable/social/sustainst… (you name it!) design.

Design is always a matter of asking the right questions, including the ones for your own life and business.

Finding the answers can take some time… Let’s enjoy the process getting there!

Source: whatsconsumesme.com

“In order to achieve different and effective results, we need to change the way we think and approach challenges”, said Einstein..

One thing I believe is that we have to transform our fragmented view into a holistic view. Why? Because we are integrated organisms. The nature and its system works holistically, like our body does and this is effective. It is just a matter of learning from nature.

I never understood why Social Sciences were taken apart of Nature Sciences, it has no logic for me!

In medicine and disease prevention are successful studies that prove a comprehensive approach achieves more effective results. Within other sectors integrated approaches are starting to gain relevance. I’m working to show the benefits of an integrated approach because I truly believe it is the way to find solutions for many challenges we face.

This blog is about sharing my thoughts, reflexions and learned lessons about my journey and passion in life: Contributing to build a sustainable (happy & heathy) environment for ourselves and leaving the right tools to our children to let them continue the journey.

I’m stronger at doing things than writing about them. So don’t take this blog like the one of a writer. I use this space as an open notebook where I can share my reflections and hopefully open conversations. So do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in the topics.

I believe the future won’t be about words but about actions! I believe we are moving from ‘design thinking’ to ‘design acting’ and from ‘story telling’ to ‘story experiencing’. We won’t need much words to communicate. Communication will be more visual and through experiences. In this transition I try to don’t take words so seriously.