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STIR (Sustainocratic Transformation, Indexation and Reseach) was founded as foundation in February 2009 by Jean-Paul Close and Marc Degreef with the objective to experiment with my own views to establish a society that works around key human values instead of pure money driven interests. Jean-Paul was to develop the ideology in the Netherlands and Marc in Belgium. June 25th 2009 the overall kickoff was done in the conference center Mennorode near Apeldoorn (NL). The gathering attracted 55 people who had become interested in the mission. It became a complex adventure of trial and error that today celebrates its first of many world wide research publications and expansion of initiatives. A quick overview of what happened till today:
2009: Kickoff and first trials
After the kickoff in June the foundation was referred to as the City of Tomorrow in which social-ecological morality and ethics was calibrated against oragnization and entrepreneurial activities, the so called model of Human Complexities and sustainable progress.
Enthousiastic working groups started around sustainability related issues such as energy, housing, mobility, leadership, food, “the new way of working”, etc. Each took responsibility to organize an encounter for awareness in our monthy congress routine in Eindhoven. We made use of the recently opened International Center of Sustainable Excellence (ICSE). The congresses were fairly successful but the working groups all encountered two problems:
- The dominance of the established channels. Any initiative would challenge the existing hierarchies which were very powerful to sustain themselves, leaving little room to develop new methods and approaches.
- The money driven resonance in the working groups. As soon as an opening became apparent the members of the working group would enter into a dispute of ownership rather that co-creativity. The groups would fall apart due to inner competitive ego conflicts, normally around money and authority.
2010: Dissolve and reconnect
The working group’s problems were a sign that the old money driven mentality was still dominant, also with the members of STIR. This had its logic because most people had mortgages to deal with and other monthly financial responsibilities and hoped to find new funding through social and ecological entrepreneurship. This tension produced awareness but not the right transformative co-creation attitude. Meanwhile Marc Degreef could not get his part in Belgium off the ground and decided to leave the foundation. It became time to dissolve the ego battles. I decided to take responsability myself with the cooperative model that I had in mind. Two lines of innovation were persued:
- The transformation of education with awareness as guiding principle. This evolved into the STIR Academy – an awareness driven initiative that created a vision around the educational processes needed to help our next and current generations forward in a world beyond the industrialized processes and economic hierarchies. Productive partner became Nicolette Meeder.
- The transformation of cities around health and productivity. This evolved into AiREAS, the first real multidisciplinary cooperation around air quality and human health. Co-founder and partner is Marco van Lochem.
The ICSE went broke in the heat of old money dependence and STIR continued by disconnecting from material structures of its own while reconnecting to open partnerships with usage of existing resources when needed.
STIR Academy tried to gain access in the world of education that was still manipulated by the dominant culture of money dependence and resonance with just cognitive educational values rather than social-ecological awareness, social cohesion or self sufficiency.
AiREAS entered the phase of proof of concept as government connected to the initiative and positioning was required to prove itself. The view was expressed in this short video message:
2011: Struggling forward
AiREAS was formally established as an awareness driven cooperation. In June 2011 the national proof of concept encounter got all parties together but commitment lacked. A territory was needed that would accept the healthy city cocreation. The city of Eindhoven accepted to become the living lab. After a detour we had come back home. In September 2011 the first multidisciplinary encounter of Local AiREAS Eindhoven got citizens, city government, science and technological innovation together to establish the first actions and priorities. Directly in that single meeting the project “Making the invisible visible” from an air quality perspective at postal code level was agreed and subsequently worked out.
STIR Academy organised an encounter between visionary people who also wanted a new educational system inspired by our views of humankind and the many speeches of Sir Robinson or Mitra. A first session was organized in a school in Eindhoven:
2012: Consolidating a new reality
Despite the co-creative efforts of AiREAS to define the “Making the invisible visible” throughout the second half of 2011 the financial backing had to follow the traditional route of bureaucracy within the battlefield of a government in financial crisis and powerful reorganization. The formal kickoff of the project was planned in June 2012 but the internal government path had not even been started, blocked by civil servants that feared the loss of their job. I decided to go ahead with the June kickoff anyway and again ask for the commitment of all the players. The encounter was decisive to lift off the blockage and get the process going. In October 2012 the announcement was released and the project could start. These encounters were filmed and are now educational material to show the psychology of human progress and struggles with fear, commitment, letting go, etc.
In November 2012 I published the book “Sustainocracy, the new democracy” (in Dutch) to commemorate and descibe the intense progress lived through to arrive at this stage of multidisciplinary commitment at city level.
STIR Academy had developed the awareness development challenges “Entrepreneur of my own life”, “In search for the hero” and “the secret” which could be played by large groups of college students within the context of their educational programs. Groups of various 100’s of students participated with great enthousiasm but the college’s boards would rapidly close the doors and block continuation because they could not handle the awareness boosts of their allumny.
2013: Making it happen
AiREAS had gone into the operational routine of creating the technology and modelling to visualize air pollution at postal code level. In September 2013 the network was rolled out in Eindhoven. After a phase of calibration and validation the Innovative Air Quality Measurement system became operational.
STIR Academy made arrangements with the Fontys University in Eindhoven to use their infrastructure to organize monthly evening sessions for awareness and exchange of best practice. Meanwhile experiments were done with secondary schools to introduce minors around “Entrepreneur of my own life”.
A new initiative developed itself based on ideology left over from the start up phase in 2009. This was referred to as Energy and Quality of Life (EQoL). It never got off the ground because a speech to the city council in 2011 got the local councillor to block progress in search for economic opportunities for the city council itself rather than accept co-creation. As people joined STIR through the AiREAS and STIR Academy exposure they also started to add their own talents to the groups. EQoL evolved into FRE2SH (Food, Recreation, Education, Energy, Self sufficiency and Health) dedicated to develop tangible city productivity (for many AiREAS and air quality was still too abstract) in the field of permaculture, city food production and connecting civilian consumption with productivity again through usages of the open spaces in the city.
2014: growing and showing
AiREAS had gone into a multiple phases:
- Now that the invisible has become visible what do we see? Surprising air pollution events were detected and captured as cases for further study and action.
- What next? Various new projects had been proposed and were discussed in workgroup format. In June 2014 a commitment was reached for the Proof of Principle around health and lifestyle research, a joined initiative between AiREAS and FRE2SH.
- How to expand our insights and way of working to other cities?
- The first global publication on Sustainocracy and AiREAS came out
STIR Academy doubled the monthly evening sessions:
- From awareness to implementation through triple “i”
- Commitment with the Smart City initiative in Brussels
- Starting to role out the European STIR HUB initiative
- Use the local AiREAS coin to connect education with healthy city development
FRE2SH also started to grow:
- The first FRE2SH city farm was initiated
- 100 apple trees were planted in the public city space together with primary schools
- Bicycle tours connecting key social and ecological initiatives were programmed
- In every city quarter visibility events were organized
- The preparations for the POP with AiREAS were organized
- A plan was developed to link City – Rural development combining Health – Local Quality of Life – Productivity and Tourism
2015: National and European expansion
- The second city, Local AiREAS Breda, started.
- Connection was made with partner cities in Italy, Hungary, Belgium and Turkye to participate together in Horizon2020 programs. The subsidy calls were not won but the relationships developed into operational platforms.
- The POP started and was finalized in its operational roll out as can be seen through the Prezi show created to visualize the complexity.
- The backpack project was initialized to determine the direct exposure of citizens to air pollution
- The analysis, cross referencing and interpretation of all data is providing an incredible amount of insights
- Civilian participation is a key issue for social innovation and stimulus of entrepreneurship. All kinds of initiatives are started that use open data and open source of AiREAS.
- A new university study direction is initiated based on “persuasive communication” – How can technology influence human behavior for sustainable progress and social innovation?
- The first world wide academic publication was published through Horizon Research
- PAPER_TITLE: Redefining Human Complexities
- An agreement was reached with worldwide academic publisher Springer to peer review and distribute our academic and visionary manuscipts through open access into their global network of millions of subscribers
- AiREAS has been invited by the national government to see how a National AiREAS can be established.
- The STIR HUB network expands gradually throughout Europe with the Triple “i” (Inspiration, Innovation and Implementation) program.
- The local HUB in Eindhoven experiments with inspiration -> implementation from sources throughout Europe, creating new entrepreneurship in the region
- The School of Talents is established to help unique youngsters with Dyslexia, ADHD and Autism through natural processes.
- STIR micros are developed for schools and groups of students to get acquianted with and process the Sustainocratic ideology and working patterns
- 7000 students visit STIR through the Erasmus+ exchange program and enjoy minors and micro education
- The global network of Spiritual Transition of Business is kick off with its central location in Brussels, together with Andras Laszlo, previous general manager of the Club of Budapest
- Research is done on human behavior, persuasive communication, cultural differentiation, etc giving rise to new global publications still this year
- The STIR evening sessions continue and expand with morning and afternoon session in the field of co-creation and implementation
- The second season of food production and innovation is on its way in our FRE2SH farm
- Health is now adopted on regional level and cocreation is possible with the province too now.
- A plan is on the way of execution create local islands of co-creative productivity in multidisciplinary cooperations that also host tourism and international education
- The concept is expanding to other regions who ask for advice and guidance
- City agriculture initiative grow fast in the city.
- A plan is developed to combine traffic and air pollution analysis with living green and water experimentation in public/private space using open data as measurable guidance and civilian/public cocreation to experiment with trees, emission calculations and mixing sorts in an optimized ecosystem for food, water, air quality and human wellbeing.
All the above has been accumplished without funding and purely through the determination and co-creative efforts of those who decided to connect with talent and their own means. When funding was needed this was always connected to specific projects and fullfilled by the participating institutional partners. The groups like AiREAS, FRE2SH and STIR Academy capture the values created for the world wide expansion through fractal growth patterns, linked with a circular economy that feeds an innovation fund of each initiative. Local communities have access to alternative value systems to measure and develop their groups commitment and share values.
To be continued……
Two pictures on Twitter today got me to wonder what our chances still are as humankind.
Wave of air pollution
A wave of air pollution is travelling across Europe. On monday (April 23rd 2015) Paris closes for traffic.
Water pollution from nuclear disaster in Japan leaks and affects the world.
Antropoceen, the era of the 6th life destructive force since the birth of Earth, is attributed to modern humankind.
I tend to bring in some nuance. It can be attributed to organized human greed and lack of sufficiently established and followed harmony defending leadership.
At City of Tomorrow we do our best and certain initiatives grow fast (AiREAS, STIR Academy) but is it fast enough?
“What happens when you lock up 300 eager pioneers in a container of a sinking ship on shipwrecking course with the message that they have to save the ship without food nor support while the ship’s captain and his team party on deck inside their self made safety rafts?”
That was the feeling I got yesterday when I was invited to the first “Smart City and Communities” encounter in Brussels. It was organised by the EU for the 300 smart city commitments that had been gathered earlier this year. People from 30+ countries had invested in creating ideas, some already in phase of implementation, and travelled to Brussels to see if they could get support to further work it out or expand their work. Many of the pioneers had gone little further than expressing an ideal, often technology based, in need for cash. Others, like myself, presented working instruments for change, with a 4 year precedent, hardly any money need and ready for growth.
When you arrive at such EU scene you feel somehow “selected”. After all you received acknowledgment that an idea seems valid for the future of Europe. You expect to be received accordingly. After all, Brussels is the capital of Europe and well known for the many billions of public tax money that is used to sustain banks, governments and, above all, them EU selves. As pioneer of a new era one feels suddenly welcome in a systems reality that can facilitate our growth and new stability. We can indeed save Europe but need support, freedom to create, connections and means.
When we arrived at the meeting centre our cheerful sentiments changed rapidly. The reception inside was a hidden away garage hall where we could collect a badge. A labyrinth of stairways and corridors, resembling a mix of hospital and prison, took us to a side room where we could listen to the monotonous program explanation of a lady with limited communication skills and no charisma. We were asked to join one of the 6 clusters to see how to take steps along a 6 month time line from idea to successful implementation.
Had no one read our commitment? We were not in for such old time industrial nonsense. We were ready to work and expand across Europe. During the opening speech it was made clear that technology would not be leading yet the clusters were managed by people from the largest technological organizations and lobbyists of Europe. Who was fooling who? On the EU Smart City site we could see the billion euro lobby of the big ones and we were there to expose ourselves to them.
The message was clear: “You have to save Europe”, create things that we can eventually sell to others in the world, become successful fast, “it is the performance that counts”, economy rules. “Money needs to make more money”. But there is no money for you so try to strengthen each other. The message was enhanced by a chaotic, hierarchy driven structure, old fashion techniques, boring presentations and set-up. One single piece of bread per person with water for lunch (various people had no lunch!), bad air circulation, over heated meeting rooms, low quality programming, bad hosting, hopelessly poor cocktail ending, it all showed the lack of understanding of EU management forces on how change and entrepreneurship works or how to create involvement.
The overall impression was of a shambles, with total lack of creativity, highly managed, cheapest of the cheap, encounter. For me and my people it felt like an insult when we consider the personal effort we put into co-creating our wellness with strong innovation plans and proof.
System versus culture change
Not the system’s dynamics of mismanagement and political abuse made the day successful for us. It were the 300 beautiful people that had come and tried to connect in the scarce moments of open interaction. Many pioneers had just come for money but those of us who really had something to work with started their own structuring and openly began searching for network contacts to work with. What the system did not achieve was achieved by these people themselves. It showed very clearly the difference between two worlds:
* System oriented people: hierarchy, management, instruct, money driven, growth oriented, avoid change, time managed, fragmented, standards, bureaucratic, etc
* Change oriented people: visionary, (ex)change oriented, value driven, changed and desire growth, entrepreneurial, leadership, break through, etc
The pioneers for change felt of course bored, insulted, misunderstood, abused, etc while the system’s reality tried to structure feedback, avoid chaos, risks and change. They were two different worlds. The system’s world does not understand the world of change. In essence that is the problem of Europe. The EU system tries to solve its issues by applying what caused them in the first place, their own money driven, blindly managed rigidness, influenced by big multinationals that equally have difficulties upholding themselves. The tax payers money should be used to provide a sense of progression and innovation rather that a bureaucratic status quo.
It is good to have met some people who are also in the field of change. If the system wants to uphold itself it has to open up to the invitation of change or be prepared for chaos. That is the evolutionary law of living complexities through counter forces interacting on each other.
It was magnificent when we could turn our back to the prison and cold mechanisms of this encounter to enjoy the human chaos of a beautiful evening on and around the Gran Place of Brussels. We needed a couple of hours and few drinks to shake off the old age disappointment and gather back the positive can-do energy that characterizes our pioneering spirit. Two public demonstrations on the streets showed the discontent of other people. The beer was good, the evening nice and warm, the food great and the atmosphere overwhelming. Not at all bad after all.