Future-wise Collaboratorium

(‘Laboratory for the collective urban intelligence’)

 

 

The Collaboratorium is a moving concept in a fluid and inter-connected world.  There are similarities and synergies all around – Living Labs, multi-helix universities, symposiums and summits, and many more. The special feature here is a specific focus on the emergence of collective intelligence, in communities, organizations, value chains, or whole societies…This works in two kinds of way –

  • collective intelligence within the Collaboratorium, its people or ‘actors’, and its resources or ‘factors’
  • collective intelligence in the context and society around, as the ultimate aim of the Collaboratorium

Here is a basic structure which can help to set up and guide such a ‘Laboratory for the collective urban intelligence’. (More in Chapter 10 of the Deeper City). 

This starts with people or organizations or societies, each in their own way on some kind of process of experimentation and learning, dialogue and collaboration. It’s a moving picture, as every day there are new technologies or social innovations, but there are common types and underlying principles.  Here are some basic options, often combined or mixed in practice (here with our titles):

  • Mind-Lab, to explore the system and problem, with general challenges and debates;
  • Scenario-Lab, with a focus on the future and alternative possibilities;
  • Synergy-Lab, for visions, goals and transformations;
  • Strategy-Lab, more about practical plans and projects.

Each of these can be a one-off debate or enquiry for a defined problem. But for larger problems, grand challenges, ‘wicked problems’ etc, we are faced with a deeper complexity, and a wider set of people or communities.  Then a deeper and wider structure begins to emerge – and this is the scope of a Collaboratorium, i.e. ‘laboratory for collaboration on collective intelligence’.

Such a Collaboratorium firstly looks for:

  • Deeper synergies between layers and domains,
  • wider synergies between actors and
  • further synergies between inter-connected causes-effects;

And then to follow through the principles of collective intelligence, such a Collaboratorium looks for systems complexity (i.e. synergies), on multiple different levels:

  • Mode-I functional synergies,
  • Mode-II evolutionary (‘smart’)
  • Mode-III co-evolutionary synergies (‘wise’, or at least ‘wiser’);

 

And this deeper-wider co-evolutionary scope, calls for a process of dialogue and deliberation between all involved.  This can be summed up as a four-stage cycle: co-learning, co-knowledge, co-creation and co-production.  And this cycle can be guided with the synergistic toolkit and its ‘4-S’ scheme:  systems (baselines): scenarios (futures): synergies (opportunities): strategies (pathways).  

Finally…. if a series of Collaboratoriums can be connected and coordinated, there begins to emerge an integrated Multi-versity. This is basically a community or network or collaborative cluster, large or small, where everyone can learn with, by and from everyone.   We can envision a future for communities, cities, nations and indeed the human world, as a multi-versity from global to local.

 

Some background

Here is some of the thinking behind the Conversations, with a sketch of the Collaboratorium or ‘Laboratory for the collective urban intelligence’, which lies behind this program (notes based on Chapter 10 of the Deeper City). 

In the background is an existential challenge – MADDER (‘Mutual Assured Destruction and Denial of Ecosystems & Resources’) – a deeper threat multiplier of global proportions.  Here the economists point to market failure, engineers to technology lock-in and policy-makers point to double-binds, in the desperate search for solutions that work. The world certainly needs ‘hard-hat’ low carbon energy, transport or housing – but it needs as much or more, the ‘human infrastructure’ of collaboration and capacity for learning and thinking ahead.  And these two sides are highly inter-connected. We’re now inside our own experiment, a global laboratory of geo-bio-chemical systems, but also a laboratory of human collaboration. And this global scale lab experiment is based on countless local Labs, each with innovations and prototypes, experimentation and learning, dialogue and collaboration.

This is a moving picture, as every day there are new technologies or social innovations, but here are some basic options for such Labs:

  • Mind-Lab, to explore the system and problem, with general challenges and debates;
  • Scenario-Lab, with a focus on the future;
  • Synergy-Lab, for the vision and potential for co-evolution;
  • Strategy-Lab, more about practical pathways, plans and projects.

Each of these can be a one-off debate or enquiry or pathway design session. But for deeper and wider challenges, all these are needed in combination, and then we have a longer programme, a Collaboratorium, i.e. ‘Laboratory for Collaboration’.

The current wave includes city-labs, policy-labs, future-labs, think-labs and Mind-Labs: going under various names – big tents, sand-pits or idea-pools. Some are keen on ‘workshops’ – so we do ‘walk-shops’ (out in the landscape), ‘talk-shops’ (speaks for itself), ‘cook-shops’ (long lunches), ‘draw-shops’ (for visual thinkers) or ‘dream-shops’ (calling on the subconscious). Behind this is a long history of places for gathering and interchange: forums, agoras, marketplaces, assemblies, rallies, think-tanks, trust circles, away-days or symposia (meaning ‘drinking together’…). But too often such meetings fall short of expectations: the agenda is hijacked, participants stay in silos, key persons are missing, time is too short, problems are ill-defined, discussion goes in circles…. So it’s crucial to keep in view the principles of a collective deliberative intelligence, and the tools which can mobilize it.  

With an inter-connected series of Labs, a Collaboratorium can begin to explore the synergistic potential.  We can gather the wherewithal – a learning community, resources, methods and tools, and pathways towards action. We can investigate the deeper synergies between layers and domains, wider synergies between actors and further synergies between causes and effects.  Then we can map the various Modes, or levels of complexity –  Mode-I functional synergies, Mode-II evolutionary (‘smart’), and Mode-III co-evolutionary synergies (‘wise’, or at least ‘wiser’).  

And so, for the practical example of a Low-Carb City:

  • A Mind-Lab brings people together to explore the problem (local energy vs global climate): a Scenario-Lab explores the future (climate change vs social change?). Then a Synergy-Lab creates the vision (maybe a Green new deal 3.0?): and a Strategy-Lab focuses on the action plan, for business, communities, government, researchers and so on.
  • A Low-Carb Collaboratorium continues with a longer programme, covering multiple sectors, technologies or policies: for energy, transport, housing, business, ecosystems, circular economy and more…
  • Overall a series of Collaboratoria may then form an integrated Multi-versity. This is basically a community or network or collaborative cluster, larger or smaller, where everyone can learn with, by and from everyone.  Different versions of similar concepts can be seen emerging here and there…