Metropolitan Hamilton

Collaborative Innovation Network

Most struggling cities are much like the Windows operating system - top-down driven, expensive, bloated and visibly inefficient constructs which lock you into its orbit - and frequently, scares the living daylights out of you with its tantrums. Well meaning attempts at finding resolutions to the many challenges that such cities pose its residents - invariably end up deploying the very same system that they are trying to improve, resulting in more circular thinking.

In order to change such recurring circular outcomes, one needs to take a closer look at other successful alternatives which are within easy reach. Alternatives like the organically structured Free and Open Source - FOSS system.

On the main page there is an interesting glimpse into how the FOSS mindset has managed to alleviate human suffering and help save lives in many disasters across the world - at low cost and in a highly efficient manner. This Open Source mindset has resulted in a highly innovative and relevant rebuild in the devastated New Orleans.

‘BookCrossing’ demonstrates the FOSS mindset very elegantly: If you love it, set it free!

The dilemma of circular thinking springs from a lack of FOSS-ness in our lives. Nowhere is it highlighted more clearly than in the unfortunate fragmentation of our collective spirit on issues debilitating our region such as: urban v/s suburban, tall v/s low; dense v/s sparse; one-way v/s two-way or even marble v/s cement and the lrt v/s buses, west harbour v/s nothing at all, and now open data v/s shut data!

Where would we all head to, if the water suddenly started to rise in our downtown? For that matter, where would we all go to from our spread in the burbs, if the oil suddenly ran out? We haven’t even a clue as to what position we are going to stake out - if oil runs out and the water rises at the same time!

Well, hopefully none of these situations arise and instead, we move beyond polarizing position debates and start investing our time more pro-actively in seeking inspiration to act - from the likes of Shai Agassi, who choose to focus on global issues and challenges with a FOSS mindset. The solutions can be quite stunning!

Short-term v/s long-term logic evaporates as transformative thinking attempts to rebuild the economy with the power of ideas and the will to act on them.

Our region is barely getting digital in thinking, when already a generation at the helm of affairs globally like John Maeda, the young President of RISD, are - "returning to the world of ideas from being - post-digital."

The global landscape is being re-defined by game-changers like Agassi, Maeda and the many more in diverse fields across the world. If we in the Hamilton metropolitan region do not keep up with the pace that the FOSS mindset has already set for the world, we will end up being mere obstacles to the natural trajectory of our oncoming generation, which for sure has little use for our echo chambers.

Recognizing emergent patterns in our region is the first step towards knowing whether our new ‘whole’ will be more than just a sum of our parts, or merely its resulting difference.

by Mahesh P.Butani

>> "Searching is an act of imagination, an approximation of expected outcomes, where findings inscribe themselves into the future."

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Comment by BeeGeeN on March 16, 2009 at 6:31pm
An excellent article by MPB that will hopefully get the "Ball Rolling" on changing outdated "Mindsets" that are negatively stunting the inspiration of Humanistic and Futuristic ideas. Many "Organizations" talk the talk of "Thinking Outside The Box" but only if their "Ox" is not going to get Gored! Many people (including myself) are at present concerned about the "Financial" loss due to the Avaricious Market Downturn but as the saying goes "Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining" and their is no better time than now to re-examine why many well meaning, past perspectives,plans and actions,have failed, and to now elicit a consensus on a more inclusive and dynamic way of solving all of "OUR" problems, be they Personal, Local, Municipal, Provincial, Canada or
World Wide. Remember "We" are all in this "Lifeboat" together now, and even if your a better "Swimmer" the Shore is now getting distant, so your better off "Pulling" together! That being said I would invite Positive comment on, Firstly "How" do "WE" get out of the Present Fiasco that "OUR" so called Leaders have got us into by failing to keep their "Eye on the Ball" as this did not just "Happen" as they would like you to believe!
Will "Printing And Throwing Money" at it only be like "Throwing Gasoline On The Flames" as it only impoverishes everyone, as eventually it must be repaid with interest! Is it not a "Political Pipedream" that somehow all the lost Manufacturing jobs will return if the "Public" bails out "Certain Companies" and their well paid Employees? Remember if your a not affected "I'm Alright Jack" type you sure as heck will be sooner than you think! So lets debate the Pro's and Con's of changing "Our" system to "Enrich" all.
Comment by Mahesh P. Butani on March 17, 2009 at 2:26am
While we wait for our ball to start rolling here - there is a interesting post by Mathew Ingram, the communities editor of the Globe and Mail, on his blog talking about Mesh '09 Canada's leading Web conference, being held in Toronto on April 7th & 8th of 2009 - and Toronto mayor David Miller's "...use of Twitter to connect directly with residents."

Way to go Mayor Miller!! It is a step in the right direction given the complexities of our times.

While we await a response from Mayor Fred and most of our Councillors to join this network - it is interesting that " of the themes of mesh ‘09 is the rise of what might be called “politics 2.0″ — a move towards more transparency, more direct civic engagement and the use of social-media tools as a way of empowering citizens to speak out about a host of important issues." -- How uncanny is that?

Well Mathew's post of March 12 above, is a must read for all of us in Hamilton who are still not quite sure of what to make of this "open-social-collaborative" thing!

We may not quite recover the financial losses from the market downturn - but having learned the hard lessons, yet once again, we sure can figure out new and simple ways to create new capital - if we are ready to take a chance on something.
Comment by Mahesh P. Butani on March 18, 2009 at 2:58am
Below is one more interesting development from outside our Metropolitan region -- from the MaRS Discovery District on Social Innovation Generation

Social Innovation Generation (SiG) is a collaboration that fosters innovative approaches to addressing Canada’s social and ecological challenges. The project is designed to provide practical support for social innovators, and connects four partner nodes:

J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Montreal
University of Waterloo
The PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship, Vancouver
MaRS, Toronto

SiG@McConnell – The McConnell Foundation aims to encourage active citizenship and create resilient communities. As a national funder, the foundation seeks innovative initiatives that have the potential for nationwide impact.

SiG@Waterloo – As the research node of the partnership, SiG fellows generate new knowledge about social innovations and the social innovation process in Canada, in particular the dynamics of learning, adaptation and innovation in sustainable development and the mental health domain.

SiG@PLAN – The PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship was created by Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network to support individuals, families, social innovators, entrepreneurs, professionals, organizations and communities interested in learning about the values, concepts and actions of caring citizens. SiG@PLAN generates social, legal and financial innovations for people with disabilities and family caregivers as well as contributing to social enterprise, social financing, social networks, public policy, Web 2.0 strategies and resources that benefit the social sector as a whole.

SiG@MaRS – MaRS is building capacity for social innovation and Social Entrepreneurship through educational programming, events, training, advisory services, lectures and access to much needed resources. MaRS's goals are to support the launch and growth of social ventures, enhance the skills and networks of social entrepreneurs, explore new instruments of social finance, foster opportunities for technology platforms to help scale social ventures and build the social enterprise community.

SiG@MaRS Info Session from SiG @ MaRS on Vimeo


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