Nourish Lab

Communities Designing Local Economies

Emily Director of Sustainable Everyday shares some of her initial PhD Research:

I have started the journey of a PhD to explore new models for local economies.

We need a new narrative

I believe we need a new story, a new narrative: a new way of understanding the way we understand the world.  Healing needs to take place for ourselves, our communities, our organisations, our ecosystems. It is time for more balance, just like the Ying Yang symbol.

As Charles Eisenstein puts it we are at a point of ‘humanities coming-of-age ordeal’. He describes this story, the "Ascent of Humanity". The Ascent of Humanity is a story of endless growth, and the money system we have today is an embodiment of that story. This story began millennia ago, when humans first tamed fire and made tools; it accelerated when we applied these tools to the domestication of animals and plants and began to conquer the wild, to make the world ours. This ‘story’ reached its glory in the age of the Machine, when we created a wholly artificial world, harnessing all the forces of nature and imagining ourselves to be its lords and possessors. And now, that story is drawing to a close as the realization dawns on us that it is not true. Despite our illusions, the world is not really ours. We are not in control of it. As the unintended consequences of technology proliferate, as our communities, our health and the ecological basis of civilization deteriorates, as we explore new depths of misery and violence and alienation, we enter the story’s final stages: crisis, climax and denouncement.  However, just as life does not end with adolescence, neither does civilizations evolution stop with the “end of growth”. We are in the midst of a transition parallel to an adolescents transition into adulthood. Physical growth ceases, and vital resources turn inward to foster growth in other realms….

We need to understand our values and needs

Human beings have human needs and values which are constant through all human cultures and across historical time periods. What changes over time and between cultures is the strategies by which these needs are satisfied. Manfred Max-Neef and his colleagues developed a taxonomy of human needs and a process by which communities can identify their "wealths" and "poverties" according to how their fundamental human needs are satisfied. These values and needs are seen as ontological (stemming from the condition of being human), as distinct from the conventional notion of conventional economic ‘wants’ that are infinite and insatiable (impossible to satisfy).

Max-Neef’s framework of ‘values and needs’ helps us to understand and grow levels of self-reliance; and to begin to reconstruct the way in which we interact/live with ourselves, our communities, our economies, our environment, technologies and governments etc.

Max-Neff classifies the fundamental human needs as: 

- subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, freedom.

We know it is now time for solutions

Once we understand the new story for ourselves, we have to begin to develop and design solutions that address the damage that has been done.  If you imagine a Babushka Doll: We (the individual is the little babushka doll), then we are nested in the community, which is nested in society (economy, cultures, political system), which is nested in our planet /  ecology. If we concepualise this babushka doll analogy it is easier to understand how we are all connected and how we have a significant impact on our communities and environment. We can see that the choices and actions we take everyday impact on our communities, society and planet (whether they are positive or negative actions and choices).

Through my projects and research I hope to harness our creative potential and ‘re-design’ our everyday living, our communities and way of being.  I believe ‘Going Local’ is a powerful strategy to help repair our fractured world, ourselves, our societies and our ecosystems. People are starting create and design new futures and I want to help accelerate this!  I am researching and designing how I can assist communities with business tools and strategies to get their projects up and running. I am completing my PhD across Design and Health faculties in a Double PhD partnership between Queensland University of Technology and Politecnico di Milano.

My PhD aims to develop strategies and tools for the ‘two little babushka dolls’ (individuals and communities) which our nested in our society and planet to design and create solutions.

We have a very dominant financial economy and need to place more emphasis on social, spiritual, ecological and cultural systems/‘economies’. I am exploring new models of engaging people and communities (Co-design, convivial local lunches and social media). Then using Design Led Innovation tools to create new solutions with people to design their own solutions. Currently all of my design work focuses on the issue of Food and ‘re-localising’ the food system. Food is a wonderful way to engage people, build community and is a tangible part of our everyday life that we can we have freedom over if we choose.

Currently I am working with the City of Greater Shepparton and co-designing the Regional Food Hub with this community and reflecting on this process. Also I am continuing my work with Urban Reforestation, with focus on ways to create new Urban Agriculture and Forest models in Melbourne and Brisbane, and with Politecnico di Milano’s Peri-urban food project “Nourish Milan”. My PhD has a very strong focus on ‘practice research’ and enables me to reflect on the work and innovate new services which can be useful to individuals, communities, councils and policy makers.

I will continue to share the development of my PhD on this blog. Please feel free to share ideas and thoughts on how you think this research can translate into some meaningful and worthwhile projects to assist with the transition to a sustainable and thriving society. 

Inspirational people to me

Anna Meroni and Ezio Manzini Creative Communities; People Inventing Sustainable Ways of Living

Fiona Leiper, Peace Train

Helena Norberg-Hodge The Economics of Happiness

Charles Eisenstein Sacred Economics

Anthony James, the Understandascope

Ethan Kent, Project for Public Spaces

Gilbert Rochecouste , Village Well

Nick Rose, Australian Food Sovrengty Alliance

Robert Pekin, Food Connect

Daryl Taylor

Jan Gehl, Gehl Architecture