By Eda Goksel
Power of collective will
Compostmodern is a San Francisco-based sustainable design conference that happens every two years. After my very first conference, I became an instant addict. This year, I was ready to jump into action and deepen my relationship with the Compostmodern community, so I volunteered through the San Francisco chapter of AIGA. A few months later, I was invited to attend the Compostmodern13 kickoff meeting where I met with Sarah Brooks, the Executive Producer of CM13 and Director of Social Innovation at Hot studio. The atmosphere was conversational and I was inspired by the volunteers’ willingness to contribute. As it turns out, volunteer collective effort is also Sarah’s favorite thing about Compostmodern. During the meeting, she stated, “The most satisfying part of the process to date has been the orchestration of all the committed volunteers that are coming together to make this conference happen.”
After the meeting, I started to think of ways to spread this unique experience as well as learn more about the “future of sustainability.” The opportunity presented itself on the 3P platform to share an interview that I did with Sarah Brooks via email and to reflect my experience on Compostmodern.
Since 2004, Compostmodern has exposed us to bright spots of design and sustainability. We’ve seen sustainability take on many different forms by designers, artists and entrepreneurs either by definition or implementation. Sarah views sustainability “as respect and responsible stewardship for all life on the planet in a way that will continue to support conditions for life, indefinitely.” According to her, “many definitions of sustainability are missing an opportunity to capture people’s imaginations or ignite our collective will.” That’s why Sarah is thinking of focusing the theme of Compostmodern13 on resilience – “the ability of a system to bounce back from shocks and periods of rapid change while maintaining its core integrity.”
In recent years, “resilience thinking” has started to take the place of “sustainability.” This paradigm shift has been a controversial subject and, according to Andrew Zolli’s article in NY Times, has left many social activists feeling anxious. However, Sarah thinks “it’s a lens for understanding complex adaptive systems, that can help guide us in our design efforts.”
Sharing and designing for resilience
To help us understand such a dynamic process of adaptive systems, Sarah and her production team have chosen speakers who will “balance a variety of perspectives on individual, community and societal resilience.” The keynote speakers, Ezio Manzini and John Thackara, are leaders in social innovation and design. The conference will also include “leading artists, design practitioners, educators working on personal resilience, community resilience, the built environment, service design, sustainable supply chain, digital design, film, photography, new economic models and new pedagogical models.”
This powerful lineup will offer us an inspirational and educational journey but, also brings the challenge that every conference faces – how to maintain the engagement and excitement that develops. Sarah explains their action plan. “We’ll do some things intentionally; maintain all our social media touchpoints that people can connect through. Those are distributed throughout the social web so people can find each other in the networks they already use to communicate and share ideas daily. We will also continue to provide editorial resources and community-building at The Living Principles.”
Additionally, I was excited to find out that this year’s conference, on day two, will use the similar format of “The Unconference” day of Compostmodern 11, which encourages attendees to turn their interest into action.
Be sure to register if you want to breathe in an atmosphere full of inspiration and conversation while interacting with hundreds of highly creative people. See you at Compostmodern13, March 22-23, 2013 in San Francisco!