Summer Update II: Design, Foresight and Urban Sustainability


And the summer rolls on. For the last two weeks, I've been settled in a very, very warm Barcelona on a couple of missions. The primary one has been education—visiting as a guest lecturer at IED Barcelona. I had the pleasure of working with different courses, including students from the Masters in Design Management, who are here throughout 2013, as well as the summer intensives on Design and Co-Creation, and Coolhunting, aimed at students interested in more immersive trends research.

The first two of these programs worked on projects focused on sustainable urban mobility, in particular taking vehicles off Barcelona's crowded streets and making it easier for visitors to get around this amazing city. I got to work with them mid-project, helping them understand innovation processes, trends synthesis, and scenario development. With the latter course, we spent time delving into how subcultures emerge from social, economic and technological drivers, and explored emerging subcultures around music, media, technology and identity—including some interesting moments looking into glitch, meme propagation, cultural loops.  Thanks again to all of the students who put time, creativity, their experiences from home cultures, and a sense of humor into the workshops.

Being in Barcelona has also given me time to explore local foresight, design and innovation networks. It has also given me an opportunity to look more deeply at the city's sustainability efforts around energy, mobility, waste, food and water management. Aside from being Europe's EV capital, a highly wired city, and a major solar production point, Barcelona and some surrounding towns are redefining how cities innovate around sustainability.  

This last part has piqued my interest because—for all the talking many do about next-generation cities, sustainability, and so-called smart-technology—Barcelona has tried to put its money where its aspirations are, even in very tough times. By understanding how these efforts both fail and succeed under serious financial and infrastructure constraints, we can get a better idea of how to implement these transitional technologies and strategies elsewhere. I'll be taking away what I've learned and looking at next steps in research and projects that put these insights to work.

A big, big thanks to all who have hosted, directed, assisted, endured and encouraged me and my crew while we've been here, including the teams at IED Barcelona and DesignIt, Fabien Girardin, Jose Luis de Vicente, Libby Garrett, Abby Margolis, Guillermo Ricarte, and everyone else who has made us feel exceptionally welcome.

Moltes gràcies!