Nourish Lab


Summary of the workshop (hosted by Australian Centre for Social Innovation)

Today Ezio Manzini came to Melbourne. I have heard him talk a few times once at the Changing the Change conference in Turino and again at the Deakin lectures in Melbourne. It was great to be inspired by his insights into sustainable design as well as be inspired by the wonderful group of people that attended.

Some points from today’s lecture were:
The importance of creating a new story around the way we live. We discussed ideas around creating ‘prototypes’ that are social innovations around areas such as food (farmers markets, community gardens), public spaces / neighbourhoods (this made me think a lot about the work I do with Village Well), Co-housing and transport.

Upscaling and Synergising Social Innovation “Local Projects” (i.e. farmers markets,  community gardening, communal bike use)


Ezio talked about the importance of recognising social innovations, then “upscaling”. However he redefines what upscaling is. Rather than growing larger and becoming homogenous, which is a common definition of ‘upscaling’ – he says the way we can do this is by “multiplying” the initiatives and projects.  This too is a way of growing. Therefore by replicating few projects to many. The process of replication means we need to find more “heros” (individuals and teams) of these initiatives to drive them.


We also discussed the importance of creating synergies – thus we need to find frameworks, different parts of the puzzle which cerate a new vision and bringing them together as a network. He used the example of the 52 community gardens that exist in the Lower East Side in New York which have “sensitive governing” body called Green Thumb ensuring they are maintained.

An integral quote that summarises this discussion on replication is beautifully put by Michelle Obama:

“to find the most effective programs out there and then replicate their success in communities around the country that are facing similar challenges”.  Michelle Obama

Further Summary Points:
- Is there a new social and economic model emerging? The western idea that the “user” does not create the product is changing and people are capable and interested to be involved in the process.
- There are great challenges to re-design welfare as we have a growing number of people in our aged demographic, however – we can help people help each other. As well as provide tools for people to serve themselves.
- We need to use our social and physical resources better.
- On one hand we have a ‘crisis of the city’, because they have so many people, but there are ways to reorganise our cities and rebuild ideas around neighborhood (I am seeing this happen with the work Village Well does).
- Food systems and agriculture is KEY to create a sustainable society
- Lets create working prototypes of sustainable ways of living (i.e. this is what we aim to do at Urban Reforestation)
- We need GOOD NEWS and NEW STORIES of how to live sustainably. We all have a responsibility to create this – so get to it!!

Lets THINK, TALK & ACT a “New Narrative” of;






Ezio Visiting Urban Reforestation!

Excitingly after the workshop I took Ezio on the Victoria Harbour tram to the Docklands and showed him the Urban Reforestation project. I am going to be presenting a paper at the CUMULUS conference, during the Shanghai World Expo in September and much of what I explained to him I have written in this paper. If you are interested in reading my paper please contact me at

Here is the Executive Summary and Intro of the paper:

Inspiring and enabling solutions towards social innovation and sustainability in communities; Urban Reforestation, Docklands, Melbourne Case study
By Emily Ballantyne-Brodie

“An affirmation of life – not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living”.John Cage

Urban Reforestation is a global sustainable design project and is the beginnings of an urban farm and social innovation project aiming to enhance sustainable lifestyles in cities. Based in the new and developing residential and commercial precinct of Docklands, Melbourne, Urban Reforestation too is in its developmental stage, growing as the community around it grows. Urban Reforestation exists in two forms, but as one entity. A sustainable living community centre and shop is based in Merchant St Docklands, with its Garden located approximately 250 metres from the shop at the end of Merchant St on the Harbour. Our shop has been referred to as a laboratory in which ‘design scientists’ create experiments and develop ideas that are subsequently transferred to the real world through our garden, programs, shop, events as well as various community workshops and seminars.

Urban Reforestation uses specific design knowledge to ‘spark’ social innovation. The community is actively involved in the design process of the sustainable development or what we like to refer to as a ‘blank canvas’. Co-design workshops, storytelling and knowledge sharing at the garden are forms of community engagement that are a social learning process focused on sustainable living. Participants have an opportunity to take some ownership and provide Urban Reforestation with the local knowledge necessary to meet the needs of the individual community. The ‘blank canvas’ concept inspires and enables sustainable lifestyles by involving local residents in the design process and enjoyment in growing, preparing and sharing local food. Success of the first urban ‘blank canvas’ provides the foundation for a “glocal” movement towards sustainable living and a sustainable development model to shape in other cities.