This blog has been a bit of a posting backwater, partly because I have been busy in the flesh world, and also because I have recently started contributing to The Pop-Up City, an online magazine that features concepts, designs and innovations from people in cities around the globe.

The Pop-Up City is a project in which we will explore new concepts, strategies and methods for a dynamic and flexible interpretation of contemporary urban life.

More than ever societies are strongly linked to global developments that have a substantial influence on the local scale. Changes take place continuously with more and more acceleration. Today’s world cities deal with many problems related to rapidly increasing international societal, cultural, technologic and economic transformation processes. More variableness in economic, political and cultural patterns leads to new expectations and renewals of dynamic capacities of the city. Our aim is to search for creative solutions regarding flexible urbanism and architecture.

The assignment of dealing consequently with the flexible city contains two important dimensions. On one hand the exploring of opportunities for temporary use of both private and public space which have become obsolete. On the other hand the search for new forms of construction, urban planning and architecture where principles of change, movement, (dis)appearance or extensions are embedded. Our aim is to create a network of a wide range of professionals who are interested in dynamic urbanism.

The idea of a dynamic urbanism is particularly appealing. Often, when we think about living in cities, we picture huge populations of transient, superficial and anonymous citizens living disconnected lives in busy, smoggy, grid-locked slums. However, growing numbers of people refuse to subscribe to this outmoded model of living.

People who strive for connection, but aren’t waiting for governments or corporations to provide the means to connect. Grass-roots, sharing communities are growing in cities across the world. I believe we need more commentary about these growing DIY urban communities and the creative ideas that they are working with. For more, read my Pop-Up City posts here.

Did you know that the 15th of October was the International Day of Rural Women? To celebrate, I thought I would post some facts and figures provided by others about community empowerment when women own land.

Since 2008, the day has recognized “the contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty”.

Supporting women in rural areas has multiple social and economic benefits, including;

  • Women’s empowerment benefits not only women themselves, but also their families and communities.
  • Farm productivity increases when women have access to agricultural inputs and relevant knowledge.
  • Women are dynamic organizers and participants in grass-roots organizations, and are effective in promoting and sustaining local self-help initiatives.
  • Malnutrition and mortality among both boys and girls are reduced when girls obtain greater access to primary and secondary education.
  • There is a strong correlation between women’s literacy and lower HIV/AIDS infection rates.
  • Women have a strong track record as prudent savers and borrowers in microfinance programmes, using income to benefit the entire household.

“Investing” (note the economic bias in the language) contributes to food security because women work longer hours than men.

According to the World Bank, 75 per cent of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas.11 While women work the land, they often do not hold formal and clear land titles. Less than two per cent of land in the developing world is owned by women, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).12 A lack of rights over land makes women extremely vulnerable to eviction and negatively affects their economic options. (WomenWatch)

At a seminar last week in honour of the day, researchers spoke about gender and land acquisition in rural agricultural communities.

The researchers also found that although many women spoke of ‘owning land,’ they, in fact, did not have any real legal rights to it.  Many of the joint-ownership agreements between spouses only included the husbands’ name in paperwork or granted him priority over his wife when making financial decisions.  Even land inherited from the woman’s family was often signed over to the husband without her knowledge. And in many cases, the degree to which a wife had legal protection of land rights depended entirely on the type of marriage arrangement she had with her husband.

Even in a country like Australia, I would suspect that fewer women own land than men, but in India, 70% of the female workforce is engaged in agriculture yet only 10% of women farmers own land.

Despite this attention given to the situation of rural women, discrimination remains rampant, from access to education and health care, to access to and control over land and other productive resources, to opportunities for employment, income-generating activities, and participation in public life. The rights and priorities of rural women continue to be insufficiently addressed – a situation that the International Day of Rural Women will, it is hoped, contribute to remedying.

Swimming Instruction

Last post I wrote about some fabulous projects that bring sharing and learning into communities, making our cities more vibrant places to live and work. This post, I’ll be sharing a few online initiatives. These fabulous websites feature a plethora of resources that you and I can access, anywhere, anytime, completely free!

The Khan Academy was just recently announced as a (very worthy) winner of Google’s Project 10^100, a two-year search for creative, crowd-sourced solutions to improving the planet:

Idea: Make educational content available online for free
Project funded: The Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that provides high-quality, free education to anyone, anywhere via an online library of more than 1,600 teaching videos. We are providing $2 million to support the creation of more courses and to enable the Khan Academy to translate their core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages. (read more about the winners in GOOD)

What is brilliant about this site is the content, which is really top notch, covering subjects that appear in various countries’ standardized tests. Even better, each lecture is delivered in a nice bite-sized format but without “dumbing down” the content.

Wiki’s offering, World University, has a mission to

provide a free, wiki-based education platform and, through facilitating the development of broadband worldwide, to make our service accessible to under served parts of the world.

I can’t comment about the quality of the content on this site, but it looks a bit rough and unpolished, and I couldn’t work out how to navigate to any of the subject offerings on my particular area of interest, the visual arts.

A less formalised way of learning is the Forum Network, a collaboration funded by PBS & NBR public media service. This site is less about getting a formal education, and more about

protecting and projecting the public voice and…informing and inspiring that public voice to foster deeper understanding of and engagement in the culture, education, politics, science, and literature of our time.”

A quick search on “visual art” brought up several really interesting lectures which I’ve bookmarked for watching later.

Finally, the mother(father?) of all that is the online lecture, TED. TED’s mission is to

build…a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

TED started out as an annual conference, and has grown hugely since 2006 when lectures (largely focussed on technology) were first published online. Over 700 talks are available on the website, and once you have endured the ad that appears at the beginning of each lecture, you are in for around 18 minutes of intelligent and inspiring entertainment. Some of the lectures may even blow your mind.

There are many ways to share what you know with others. Here are some alternatives to traditional education that are either free, extremely cheap, or rely on some form of barter or trade.

Shareable features an article this week on a Freeskool in Ithaca, NY:

With classes like Mushroom Hunting, Bike Repair, Know Your Rights with Debtors, and D.I.Y. Movie Making, it’s a refreshing variety of completely free classes for people of all ages. Started only a few years ago and run entirely by volunteers, the Freeskool gives the community an opportunity to share their skills and knowledge.

Another venture, also featured on Shareable, is described as a ‘pop-up’ school, which for a month offered classes for barter. Anyone can sign-up to teach, and the list of classes is esoteric and exciting. Even better, each class has a corresponding blog post, which acts as a perfect refresher if you’ve forgotten some of the basics. From organising an arts festival to caviar. Here’s a quote from Elizabeth, who taught the Caviar Demystified course:

I think Trade School is beautiful – from a design perspective, from the curation and execution. It should live on as a platform for individuals who can’t afford school to have a place to be inspired and then potentially teach too. Or think critically about what they can talk about – It successfully inspires human engagement and education.

Other formats that I have seen include the School of Everything. I signed up, but I haven’t had any bites yet. It may be simply because the site hasn’t had much exposure in Australia (be warned, it loads very slowly). Or maybe the concept is still a bit out there for Aussies? Here’s a lovely posting from their site anyway, which will go some way to explaining the ethos behind the concept.

As we decide what next for School of Everything we’ve been doing a little bit of soul searching and thinking about what we truly believe in (as well as working hard, being nice to people and the power of good chili sauce). Here’s what we’ve come up with – would be great to know what you think.

We believe…

  • The real world is better than the internet. Step away from your computer please. Getting out and trying new things is better than being sat at a desk all day.
  • All subjects are important. Learning is learning, and learning is good. Knowing how to rewire a plug is just as valuable as understanding inverse trigonometric functions.
  • Everyone has something to teach. Everyone, yes everyone, has something they can teach someone else.
  • Everyone has their own way of learning. It’s better to learn in the way you want to. You know what suits you best.
  • Learning is better with friends. People are brilliant, inspiring, generous and smart. Being with others makes it easier and enjoyable to learn more.
  • You should never stop learning. You can keep learning whatever your age, far beyond your school days.
  • Education shouldn’t be expensive. With a bit of ingenuity you can learn new things without spending lots of money.
  • Qualifications are overrated. A good education is about the things you learn along the way, not a fancy bit of paper.
  • All of these projects and initiatives are inspiring. I’d love to start some sort of venture based on these models here in Hobart.

    Collaborative cooking ventures known as underground or secret supper clubs are a fairly  recent phenomenon. I am not sure if there are any in Australia.

    You book online, and are sent a confirmation email with address. You dine with maybe six to twenty guests and, at the end, pay a contribution for your food and wine.

    The meal is served in a private establishment, probably someone’s house, but what you eat is restaurant quality.

    While I am sure the food and the experience for the guests is outstanding, it seem to me that the experience for the chefs is what prompted the movement in the first place.

    From this article in the Atlantic:

    But it’s my time in the kitchen that had stuck with me. I can’t imagine living with three roommates, let alone operating a business together to boot. And yet on Saturday I saw none of the shouting and contretemps that propel reality cooking shows and bedevil professional kitchens. Bonhomie may be amateurism’s greatest virtue.

    The writer is excited by the casual and playful atmosphere that this form of collaborative cooking creates. Another article in the NY Times says:

    They are not in it for the money or for Buddha Bar-size crowds; instead, they say, they are in it for the community and the creative freedom. It’s hard to imagine even the most adventurous legitimate restaurant encouraging customers to hack the hindquarters off a boar’s carcass. And underground restaurants have found their niche. Stringing together the farm-to-table movement and a bloggy kind of interactivity, they have gained a following among food lovers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who have an opinion on local versus organic, prefer intimate and casual to grand and ceremonial, and are open to meeting people and building connections in new ways.

    Wouldn’t this be most people’s preferred environment for creativity? Pat Kane, author of The Play Ethic, talks about work as play. He asks:

    What would organisations be like which encouraged creativity, open-ended learning and experiment – the essence of play – as preferred characteristics for their employees or colleagues? What kinds of products, services and actions would these “players” generate?

    Since reading his book a few years ago, I’ve been on the lookout for organisations who have the values of play as a foundation of their operation.

    Underground supper clubs seem to be one example of this. People are interested in working in playful collaborative environments. If they can’t play in their workplaces, then they create their own spaces, in their own time, out of virtually nothing, for some serious after-hours fun.

    The white mould forms on the outside of the cheese

    I mean here in Hobart, not the philosophical ‘why am I here?’

    Actually, Hobart is on the way to Cabanandra. I don’t mean this in a geographical sense, but rather in a strategic sense.

    Ok, so Hobart is actually a city, not a country town, or an isolated rural area. However, moving away from Melbourne has provided us with new insights and a new set of skills.

    We know that our relationship can survive the stresses of moving, and we can even laugh about it (later!). We know that we can find work, learn new skills, make new friends, and enjoy exploring a new place. Sure, there are plenty of things I might do differently, but I know I can do it again, when I need to.

    Christmas is coming, and at the moment, its a great time to relax. To take in the glorious spring growth, eat lovely food, drink great wine and hang out with friends. To take stock of what we have achieved in just nine months, with little savings, but plenty of energy and passion.

    Making (or finding) a place to call your own isn’t just about buying (or building) a house. It is just as important to pay attention to all those other things: work, friends, exploring, socialising and community participation. In some ways we have down-sized. We earn less, we have less space, we have fewer possessions. But looked at another way, we have actually up-sized.

    No, we are not just surviving, we are thriving.

    Some links to Sea / Tree change stories (not all positive)

    Charles Sturt University research

    Regional Living Australia blog post

    The Sea Change

    Transformations Journal

    Rural life not so sweet

    Live the Dream

    350Here’s my attempt at 350 – some images that I made on my way to Uni in Thursday morning. A small gesture, but if mine is one of thousands, or even millions, that adds up to something – right?

    Get involved, its pretty simple! For some inspiration visit the gallery at 350 org

    Maybe you could make some art:

    What do you get when you mix the arts and activism? Artivism!

    With the International Day of Climate Action only a week away, now is the perfect time to start building some creative visuals for you action. You’ve been planning your action, making phone calls and having meetings: now is the time to have some fun, and get into the “hands-on” part of creating an action. The plan: organize an “Art Build”. Call your friends, or round up some local youth and set a time to spend 3 hours making art for your action. It doesn’t matter if you have 2 people or 20, we’ve got a few simple tricks that will help you make your action louder, more colorful, and more fun. A little art goes a long way! Fun events such as this are also great ways to strengthen your action community, and to get more and more people involved. You can even invite the press, and get some coverage before your action even starts.

    There are lots of ways to get creative, and each day we receive new photos with all sorts of wonderful ideas. We’ve got a few things on our site that can help you, step by step, with the logisitics of making art for your action. Look at a few of the following pages, and let them spark your imagination. A good place to start is to make a banner for your action, this can appear front and center in your action photo: so everyone knows what your message is. You can create t-shirts for your action using these great stencils, or you can make headbands using potato prints. The possiblities are endless… Want to get some theater involved? Check out this script for a short skit that can be done quickly with groups of any age. Want to put some movement into this movement?  Look no further than this great idea for a dance performance. Don’t be afraid to push your limits – its all for the good of the climate movement.

    Looking for more ideas? Check out our Spread the Word page for even more tips on how to create hand-made posters to advertise for your event, cardboard hats, instruments made out of garbage, and other fun ideas to get your action to stand out in a crowd. We are a vibrant, colorful and diverse global movement, lets show that to the world! Become an artivist today!

    Or get involved in someone else’s action. Check out the actions that are happening near you. In Hobart, there are several events happening, including a plant collage at the Botanic Gardens, a procession on the waterfront, and the 350 photo challenge.

    To find out and register to attend an event, search the map at 350.org

    View Actions at 350.org

    350 a350 b