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Low-carbon synergy and social intelligence

February 28, 2014

Dr Joe Ravetz delivered a seminar entitled “Low-carbon synergy and social intelligence – the internal logic of a transition pathway?” on Wednesday, 26 February 2014  to the Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester.

While remote villages in India are destroyed by aluminium ore mining, used cans pollute our streets and communities. But in a free-market society, disposable ‘stuff’ seems to be a human right for producers and consumers. And the drink supply chain is just one small part of a giant industrial system, with an existential problem known as climate change. What can be done?

We could try supply-demand chain integration, behavioural psychology, ecosystems markets, stronger regulation, or technical innovation. Better still would be a creative combination of all these, an integrated ‘transition pathway’. But this seems very challenging. There are many uncertainties, risks and opportunities: and also, the wider ‘supply-demand-value’ chain isn’t just a rational technical system, but a human one.

So to realize a transition pathway involves not only technical ‘linear’ thinking, but a more human kind of ‘synergistic’ thinking. This looks for wider systems of collaboration: business opportunities for integration of supply chains: social opportunities for integration of health and education: or ecological integration of waste and resources. Putting these together, combined ‘transition pathways’ can emerge, as processes of shared learning, collaboration building and ‘social intelligence’: with less policy intervention and more effect.

This seminar looked at current developments in methods and tools: particularly the ‘synergistic mapping’ of complex cognitive systems: and ‘synergistic design’ of responses. The example on the table is the challenge of a ‘One Planet’ transition pathway for the UK economy: where policy mixes, intelligent finance and collaborative business models can start to join the dots.

Joe Ravetz is Co-Director of the Centre for Urban Resilience & Energy at Manchester, and leads on sustainable cities and regions. His main books include ‘City-Region 2020’: and the forthcoming ‘Urban 3.0: creative synergy and shared intelligence’. He is on the editorial board of Foresight Journal; coordinator of the Greater Manchester Policy Exchange; Principal at SAMI Consulting; and delivers training, seminars, consultancy, keynotes, reviews and also graphic facilitation in many countries.

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