Demotech – design for self-reliance

Rope pump intake.*
Rope pump

I've spent the past week visiting Demotech in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Reinder van Tijen is the driving force behind Demotech, often working with his colleague Bram, and with interns. I'll be posting an interview with Reinder shortly, but first I want to introduce some of his work:

  • Rope pumps have been Reinder's main work - a tool for providing water with minimal materials and local construction and maintenance. And I can vouch that they're amazingly easy to operate. Where else but
  • DemoUnit carried home after a rally. Reinder at far right.*
    DemoUnit - light and portable
  • Need to display a sign? Mount posters or banners? DemoUnits put democratic free expression into appropriate technology: These frames are not only a boon for activists, but can be used wherever you need a sturdy, lightweight frame. I've slept in a large one which was covered and used to create a bedroom within Demotech's warehouse space.
  • A hand-wash station for environments with limited water - improves hygiene without wasting water:
  • One of Demotech's latest projects is a kind of appropriate technology hanging garden: (I was confused by the name until I realized it's equity as in equality, not equity the finance term. D'oh.)
  • Want to delve deeper? At there are a range of designs, plus publications showing the thinking behind Demotech's work.

* Image credits: Rope pump intake via Crossroads. Image of DemoUnit taken by me (Chris Watkins), shared under CC-by-sa 3.0.

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Searching the green dev wikisphere

There is an ecosystem of wiki websites on sustainability, design and development issues.

Appropedia is a large and broad site; others include small but active communities and NGOs doing good, focused work (e.g. Greenlivingpedia and Akvopedia), wikis run by multilateral organizations (e.g. the UNDP's WaterWiki and the OECD's Wikiprogress and Wikigender), and (sadly) wikis where nothing has happened for years, and the community appears to have scattered.The ecosystem isn't exactly thriving - even when we're friendly (and we usually are) we don't talk and we don't share as much as we'd like.

As communities we want to collaborate and encourage each other, but as individuals we're busy - and I'm as guilty as anyone. What can help is just being aware of what is on other wiki sites - knowing of good wiki pages out there in the green wikisphere, to learn from, borrow from and link from our own pages. That can even lead to the odd bit of drive-by editing on another wiki - all the better.

To that end, here's a tool I've made: a search engine for green and development wikis.

It's a Google custom search of over 40 wiki sites. Apologies to the good wikis I haven't named in this blog post, but I hope you'll check that your site shows up in the search results.

If you want to who's writing about something on which wiki, this can help. The results are a little quirky, so allow a few seconds to scan the list to find what you want, and maybe try different search terms. Give it a try, and let me know.

May it add a little more unity to our wiki ecosystem.

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Introducing a series of guest posts from knowledge sharing projects aiming to build a better world.

Our first post is from Philippa Lysaght from Wikiprogress - looking at progress as more than just increasing GDP.

Wikiprogress logo

When Wikiprogress launched at the 2009 OECD World Forum, there was a lot of excitement and nervousness as to how the wiki platform would develop and foster the progress community. Almost two years on and Wikiprogress has grown to play a central role in the progress movement, with many lessons learnt on the challenges and opportunities wiki platforms present. We have gathered a few of the highlights from this experience so far, along with a little background info what Wikiprogress is and what it aims to achieve.

What is Wikiprogress?

Wikiprogress is an online platform centralizing data, information, initiatives, publications, events and networks that are part of the international movement to look beyond GDP in measuring the progress of societies.

In recent years, the shift from measuring economic production to wellbeing has gained a lot of support from organisations and governments around the world. National statistics offices, intergovernmental organisations, research networks, non-government organisations and interested individuals are working to develop new and existing measures of social, environmental and economic progress.

Wikiprogress aims to provide a platform for all parts of the progress community, citizens and policy makers alike, to develop information on measures of progress by creating a robust wiki of related research and statistics. In doing so, Wikiprogress aims to foster a web community around the vision of measuring progress and provide a platform for collaborative participation.

Why wiki?

In fostering the development of progress indicators, it is important to develop a conversation with all levels of society on what dimensions of progress are important to each community.

Joseph Stiglitz, a world-renowned economist and pioneer of the progress movement, has called for a ‘global dialogue’ on measuring progress: ‘part of the objective of rethinking our measurement systems is to generate a national and global dialogue on what we care about.’ (From Measuring Production to Measuring Well-being, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Presentation to the Productivity Commission, Melbourne, July 29, 2010)

The wiki platform ensures that all voices are heard in developing progress indicators, and more importantly, fosters a multidisciplinary community to work together.
Read the rest of this entry »

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