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Synergistics & the Mind-Lab


Welcome to Synergistics – the art and science of building synergy by collective intelligence, for sustainability, prosperity and resilience, in turbulent times.

And welcome to the Mind-Lab – a space for experimentation on collective intelligence – a.k.a. ‘Laboratory of Collective Intelligence’ or Collaboratorium .  This is open to anyone working on sustainable futures, local and global, with deeper layers of value, wider communities of interest, and further horizons of change…  

Our overall aim is the mapping and design of new systems of human collaboration – in cities, economies, ecologies, technologies, and whole societies – in order to live together on one small planet. This calls for a new operating system, one of emerging collective intelligence  – a Symbio-polis of cities and civilizations.  Here we look beyond  the evolutionary logic of ‘winner takes all’, towards the co-evolutionary logic of “winners are all”. 

The source-book for these ideas is a handbook for the perils and promises of the 21st century – the Symbio-polis with its many deeper layers – the ‘Deeper City and the pathways from smart to wise’  (here are some reviews). 

On this site you will find 4 main menus (each with an overview below) –

  • Collaboratorium  – a long name for the Mind-Lab – an experimental zone for learning & thinking on collective intelligence.
  • Themes – 5 main programs including ‘cities, ecologies and technologies’, with a Foresight 3.0 program on the overlap.
  • Projects – recent and ongoing projects which explore & demonstrate the potential of collective intelligence
  • Toolkits – a set of practical methods, tools, examples and guidance:


Also you are invited to join the Mind-Lab community for updates & invitations



As our contribution to the Asia-Pacific future – the Deeper City book is now available in Vietnamese !!  Thanh-pho-sau-hon …. (Chinese version is in discussion..)

2024 events

Future-wise / city-wise theme:

  • Envision-GM:  advice to the next government: 20th June 4-6pm:  Manchester Urban Institute LAB meeting (Local Advisory Board).  This is a rapid and fun brainstorm on pressing issues – from net-zero and housing, to mental health and extremism – to explore priorities and synergies between the many layers of our city-region. For registration & updates – Envision MCR
  • ‘Collective economic intelligence’ workshop 31st July, London: session at the UCL Summer School on Economics for Sustainability: Climate Change and Social Inequalities

Eco-wise / resilience theme:

  • Resilience Forum: 26th June. 1300 (hybrid) –  with guest speaker Prof. Jorge Inzulza of the University of Chile. With an interactive process of case study mapping of the ‘collective resilience intelligence’, we aim to generate ideas for future collaborations.  Details & sign up – Synergistics | Resilience 3.0
  • Food & health systems mapping, 19th Sept: presentation for Public Health Wales workshop, based on the systems approach to environmental policy project for Natural Resources Wales.
  • Circular economy of the future: the Ukraine case study on ‘collective circular intelligence’:  workshop hosted by Joe Ravetz for the UN Industrial Development Organization, April 17th 0900 CEST, at the World Circular Economy Forum – – (details shortly, contact )


2023 events

City-wise theme

Future-wise theme

  • Foresight 3.0 Indonesia August 4-10th 2023: this aims to contribute to the ongoing program for the Ministry of National Development Planning. Locations are in Malang, Yogyakarta & Jakarta, with the Nalar Institute ( and Centre for Innovation Policy & Governance (
  •  Foresight 3.0 Special Issue Launch 13th April 2023.  Exploring the theme of ‘collective foresight intelligence’ this issue is nearly complete – launch expected in July 2024. See  foresight-3-0-special-issue/

 Climate-wise theme:

  • Eco-wars-3.0   exploring the interface of climate tipping points & societal tipping points: Sept 29th 2023, 1600 BST:  open meeting pre-COP 28 for synthesis & ‘summary for policy-makers’.
  • How to survive the 21st century’ – workshop 21st July 2023, Manchester: for the China-UK project on International Resilient Cities, we bring new methods of risk / resilience analysis, to look beyond the city limits at whole urban / peri / regional systems. The enquiry continues with a follow-on workshop in Changsha 21st Details –


New projects & initiatives

  • Foresight 3.0 Ukraine circular economy – working with UNIDO on the longer term prospects for Ukraine as a innovative and sustainable circular economy
  • International resilient cities  – China-UK project: exploring new methods of risk / resilience analysis, to look beyond the city limits at whole urban / peri-urban linkage systems.
  • Eco-wars-3.0 – This unique and very topical project explores the interactions of climate tipping points with human tipping points. Each side is hyper-complex, volatile & vulnerable – with the synergistic approach, we invite participants for co-production of a ‘collective climatic intelligence’ .
  • Ground zone / Liveable city toolkit:  The Ground Zone project is an Innovation Lab collaboration between the Manchester Urban Institute, and architects / designers Callison RTKL
  • Local-wise – (Urban participatory research & knowledge loops) – exploring new forms of urban knowledge in Living Lab context, and how they are co-produced between research, policy, business and civil society.  

Welcome to the book

The book is about the Symbio-polis – shorthand for the co-evolution, not only of material cities but the civilization which produces them – of which there are many deeper layers in the deeper city…. 

So the book aimed high – to visualize challenges and forward pathways, in text, system mapping, and visualizations – here are various materials –


A wider set of resources are shared with the visual thinking ‘sand-pit’ of Urban-3.0 –  further samples from  The Book:    the Mind Games and Political Games with visual storylines : background on the  Synergistics ideas & methods: deeper and wider insights and experiments in Visual Thinking.)


Virtual future-wise hub

we are pleased to offer a unique meeting place / virtual bar / water garden and lookout point – (courtesy of Mozilla Hubs) –

perfect for informal networking after intensive meetings…. details on Future wise hub – basic guide    


Collaboratorium – overview

In this Collaboratorium / Mind-Lab  we aim to explore the frontiers and principles of ‘collective intelligence’, its methods and tools, and practical applications.  We aim to demonstrate the pathways forward, with analysis, examples, guidance, methods & tools.

Following a first phase of experimentation (2020-22), a forward plan is now forming with 4 main strands:

  1. Projects & case studies: experiments & applications, new & ongoing: some have open invitations to participate
  2. Community & dialogue: debates and symposia, ‘lab tours’, online comment;
  3. Research & publication: compile special issues and a multi-author ‘CI-Book’ (‘collective intelligence book of online knowledge’);
  4. Policy & practice: disseminate results, methods & tools, with ‘white papers’ & practical guides.

This is planned as a multi-year program, exploring a range of topics in 4 key themes and their intersections:

  • City-wise theme: ‘Peri-urban-wise’ & MCR-wise’
  • Smart-wise theme: ‘CHAI-wise’ & ‘Local-wise’
  • Eco-wise theme : ‘Climate-wise’ & ‘Bio-wise’.
  • Foresight 3.0’ is at the intersection of these clusters, with studies on collective intelligence, futures methods & applications: (also, ‘Pandemonics-3.0’ was a key focus 2020-22). 


Forward thinkers and interested co-authors are invited to join these workshops as they come up on the links. 

For comments or queries, contact

Projects – overview

This is the ‘inhouse’ Collaboratorium – an experimental zone for a ‘collective intelligence laboratory’. Here the synergistic methods are being developed and tested in a range of projects, large and small, from around the world. 



Bemine (Finland)

Finland sees rapid urbanization, bringing sprawl, polarization and rural decline. The ‘Bemine’ project explores pathways for transformation in urban development. Synergistics helps to cross-fertilize 70+ research outputs, and co-create new ‘Envisions’ for the future.

Mini-Lab (UK)

The Mini-Lab (Metropolitan INnovation & Intelligence Laboratory) is a small prototype for a collective intelligence program. It works on low carbon retrofit & environmental governance. We aim towards a ‘multi-versity’ of co-learning and co-production between policy makers and researchers.

Risk & resilience (Australia)

The rising seas and gathering storms of the coming decades need more than building of walls. To adapt and co-evolve, we need to look at how society works, learns, thinks and communicates – a next generation Resilience-III.

Looper – Learning Loops

Looper is setting up ‘Learning Loop Living Labs’ in Brussels, Manchester, and Verona. These are new models for experimental design and innovation at the community level, for problems such as air quality, road safety, noise, crime or greenspace.

Smart-Wise Inclusive Cities (India)

The disruptive power of smart technologies is now emerging. This calls for a new agenda – ‘Smart-Wise Inclusive Cities’ (SWIC), which steer the ‘smart power’ towards social equality, sustainable livelihoods & open governance. SWIC-India is a small pilot to test the synergistic methods, ready for scaling up to global level

Low Carbon Futures (Qatar)

Qatar may be at a crossroads in environmental history. With the world’s third-largest natural gas reserves its wealth is huge, but vulnerable. Everything could change with international climate change policy, market effects, or national priorities. For the shift to renewable energy, there is a clear advantage for the first mover. All this points to a Foresight-III approach to building capacity, for collaborative learning, thinking, creating and doing.

Water governance (GM)

Water governance is split across public, private and civic sectors: there are many gaps, overlaps and barriers to integrated catchment management. To design more effective governance structures, we can use Synergistic principles. Then we can address the whole of the water cycle: supply, demand, water quality, groundwater, flood risk management and drainage.


(Peri-urban climate-environment)

From space, the human impact on the planet is seen by the spread of cities, but cities themselves are spreading into much larger areas of sprawl, around and between them. The planet has arguably entered the ‘Peri-cene’ – a new global human-environment system shaped by peri-urbanization. The PERI-CENE project will provide the first ever comprehensive assessment of global peri-urbanisation, with its climate impacts, risks and vulnerabilities. For more see

Toolkit – overview

The Synergistic Toolkit is designed for working with complex inter-connected problems. It shows how to turn a ‘Nexus’ of contradictions, into a ‘Connexus’ of opportunities. It’s a package of methods, tools, techniques, and templates.

The Toolkit helps to understand a complex present, and explore the pathways to opportunities in the future. It works with a 4 stage process – ‘Systems / scenarios / synergies / strategies’.


First we explore the wider and deeper nature of the problem.
Find out more


Second we look at the forces of change and future uncertainty.
Find out more


Third we look for visions and shared opportunities between all.
Find out more


Finally we turn the visions into pathways for strategy and action.
Find out more

Resources – overview

People on stairs

The synergistic resources will be a structured collection of materials, on the art and science of synergistics, and the pathways ‘from smart to wise’. 

This is ongoing work in progress, with mappings on each of the 40 synergistic pathways

Deeper City is about collective intelligence and the next generation operating systems, local and global. This comes in different forms. There’s a jungle type intelligence for a ‘smart’ city where the ‘winner-takes-all’. And there’s a civilizational intelligence, for a ‘wise’ city, where ‘winners-are-all’. So how to get ‘from smart to wise’?   Deeper City maps out 40 pathways, ranging from cities to economies, technologies, ecologies, politics, insights and the global future.  These are not ‘solutions’, more like more useful ways to ask the questions…