One of the areas I've focused on heavily in the last five years has been the growth of and innovation within informal economies, and the connections between these and the so-called formal sector—the "official" economies of the developed world that see the light of day. A lot of investigation of topics like frugal innovation focus on how it can be mined for new ideas and efficiencies in developed economies, taking an extractive approach, treating informal economies like "the other," a learning lab of last resort.
What I find more interesting is the lack of actual border, of otherness, between the informal and formal. And as more of us live in and recognize this borderless state—and sometimes dip in and out of both—there is a constant flow of ideas and approaches between them. Particularly as so-called developing markets exercise this "emergence" in areas such as science and technology, it's a natural evolution to apply what it practiced in the informal sector to more formalized development. This is taking us toward a future where science, technology, commerce, media, and more are being shaped by these informal approaches—in the development of innovation networks, supply chains, the way we think about risk management and more. The impact of DIY and informal networks was even a critical module in our Futures Institute curriculum this summer, and became an influential element shaping how students final designs took shape, through informal approaches to innovation in what was traditionally "Big Science," such as space, computing, and robotics.
So, I'm excited to be invited to speak at the Informal Economy Symposium being organized by Claro Partners, coming up in Barcelona on October 12. The event is a kick-off to their longer running research in this area, and features some fantastic speakers, including Keith Hart, John Thackara, Niti Bhan, Steve Daniels, Richard Tyson, Alex Clay, Ben Lyon and Adam White. I've had the privilege of working with Niti and Steve before, and was with Ben at SWIFT's Innotribe event in Mumbai last year on connecting the unbanked, so this will be an amazing event. I'll be focusing on the impact of informal economies on the future, particularly in the border space between, and how the informal will increasingly shape where we go next.