Bienvenue à Genève

In order to convey the full experience of my time in Geneva and everything that happened over the past two years I am going to do two things. First, I am going to focus on what happened. Once I have covered that, in as much detail as feels necessary, I will move on to trying to unpack the Why. Why did things happen the way that they did? Why did I make certain decisions? Why, ultimately, am I looking back, two years since deciding to go to Geneva, and typing this from my flat in Cowes and not from Geneva?

This is part one of the What.

I have already given away that the decision I made in the 24 hours I had was to go to Geneva. Well, on the 4th of July 2016 I arrived in Geneva to start my secondment at the World Economic Forum. That decision was now a reality.

I was seconded to the circular economy team at the WEF and was tasked with leading a project that is run as a collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Forum. The arrangement, as of the start of my secondment, was not exactly a simple one:

  • I would spend half of my time in Geneva and the other half on the Isle of Wight, so as to operate equally connected to each organisation.
  • I would stay in AirBnB’s while in Geneva because the cost of renting permanent accommodation is astronomical.
  • The length of my secondment would be for one year, but could be extended because
  • I had the option of applying for the WEF’s Global Leadership Fellowship, a three year leadership programme.

That was the state of play when I landed at Geneva airport for the first time. After passing through passport control (fingers crossed that the border agent didn’t ask for my non-existent work permit) I collected my bags, hopped on the number 10 bus (which would become very familiar to me over the next 18 months) and made my way to the suburb of Eaux-Vives near the lake, where I would be staying for the first week. I checked in at my AirBnB, dropped my bags off and jumped on the A bus towards the WEF office in Cologny.

Things got off to quite a slow start in the office that first week. I had arrived while the rest of my new team were away from the office, so I wouldn’t be meeting them until the week after. The next induction day for secondees wasn’t for two weeks, so I would be without a laptop, lunch card and access credentials until then too. I was set up at a temporary desk and pretty much left to my own devices. To be honest, I was quite happy with that arrangement because I had plenty of work to keep me occupied, namely getting my head around the project I was now leading.

That project was called Project MainStream and was the basis for the collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum. The basic idea of the project is to choose a material (plastic for example), do a bunch of research to understand how the global system for manufacturing and using that material works and how broken it is (by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean), and bring together the leading organisations that deal with that material to create a new system that actually works (a New Plastics Economy for instance).

Well, after doing exactly that for plastics, the plan was to try to do the same thing for biological materials (such as food). My job for 2016 was to begin the formation of the group of organisations that could work together to change the system and to start the research to understand how the system works. The aim was to publish a report at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2017. How hard could it be?

I did eventually meet the rest of the circular economy team at the Forum. I also got access credentials, a laptop, lunch card and a desk of my own. I moved into a new AirBnB, on the other side of town for week two of my stay in Geneva and another AirBnB the week after. Three weeks after arriving in Geneva I hopped back onto the number 10 bus, this time heading towards the airport and boarded a plane bound for Gatwick. Once there I would catch the train to Southampton and the ferry to the Isle of Wight, where I would stay for two weeks before repeating the journey in reverse.

And with that my rough routine for the rest of the year was established. In the next six months I went on to stay in eight different AirBnB’s, take 27 flights, meet my girlfriend, write a paper on biological materials in cities and apply for a prestigious fellowship. Details on that in part two.

To tide you over until then, here’s a video I put together in my excitement that first week in Geneva.

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Now We Have a Plan

Earlier this year Ellen MacArthur travelled to Vancouver to present at TED2015. In her 17 minute talk she shares the most important lesson that she learned while sailing solo around the world. It’s a great watch to end your day on a high!

Learn More…!

To learn more about the circular economy the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have a number of resources available:

  • Circulate is an online news publication edited by the Foundation. Updated daily, it is a great source of stories and links related to the transition to a circular economy.
  • Every year the Foundation hosts an open-source online event, the Disruptive Innovation Festival. This 3-week event (taking place Nov 2 – 20 2015) brings together thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, designers, businesses, learners and doers to catalyse the system change necessary to shift to the future economy. You can get involved either by participating either as a viewer or by contributing your own ideas!

Have you seen any examples of a circular economy in action? Share in the comments below!

Collaboration of the Month – EatWith

First Things First

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the subtle change in the title of this post. Collaboration of the Week has miraculously transformed into Collaboration of the Month, what’s up with that?! In all honesty, I was probably a little overambitious when I thought of writing a weekly post about a cool collaborative consumption idea. As it turns out, it didn’t take very long for the weekly schedule to be lost completely and the last Collaboration of the Week was posted months ago! However, collaborative consumption excites me far too much to simply abandon the idea so, with a bit of realistic thinking, it is back as a monthly post. I have already identified a good few months worth of inspiring businesses to highlight so if this is something that interests you keep checking back in. Now, onto this month’s collaboration!

EatWith – You’re Invited

Do you enjoy going out to a restaurant for a meal with friends? How about going over to a friend’s place for dinner and a few drinks? If you’re anything like me (and having an interest in collaborative consumption implies that, in a small way at least, you are) then you are quite fond of both. But, have you ever thought about doing both…at the same time? Combining the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of a dinner party at a mate’s house with the high-quality food and experience of eating out at a restaurant. Well, whether you have thought about it or not, EatWith gives you the chance to do just that.

"Waiter, more wine!"
“Waiter, more wine!”

The premise is really rather simple (as all collaborative consumption ideas seem to be). Aspiring chefs, or hobbyist cooks who simply enjoy having people over for dinner, create a listing for their dinner party on the EatWith website. The listing contains information on the type of food that will be served, how long the event will last for and even the “Host Style”, whether the host sits down to enjoy the meal with guests or simply prepares and serves the food – restaurant style. Of course there is also the usual background info on the host, rough location of the event and the price. Would-be diners simply search through local listings and book a space at a meal that appeals to them or, if the date doesn’t suit them, can suggest a date to the host.

Scanning through the listings for London, the meals available are as varied as the hosts. I was immediately drawn to the Halloween Southern Supper Club, a vegetarian, New Orleans French Quarter inspired, four course meal served in a “subterranean dining room”. The host, Natalie, is a Cordon Vert trained chef who is looking to serve the “most authentic soul food dishes you have ever tried.”. Another interesting listing is the Experience World Fusion meal hosted by Emily Amuke, a quarter-finalist on MasterChef in 2013. Emily sits down to enjoy the meal with her guests, making use of EatWith to combine her love of cooking with that of meeting people.

"A toast to collaborative consumption and good food!"
“A toast to collaborative consumption and good food!”

EatWith has been described as the “AirBnB of dining” and, with a growing number of listings, in 17 cities around the world, its appeal certainly seems to be increasing as people begin to embrace the experiences and opportunities that collaborative consumption are making available. As with almost the entire sharing economy at the moment, there are questions of regulation and safety standards surrounding EatWith. However, I suspect these will resolve themselves, in one way or another, as the sharing economy establishes itself. As long as people enjoy going out for a meal with friends or cooking up a storm for the enjoyment of others, services like EatWith, that make it easy to do so, are going to have a place in the world. So, next time you’re in the mood for an evening out with friends, why not give the restaurant a miss and see what someone in your local area is cooking up for dinner…?

An Announcement!

Oh yes, a real announcement, about something super exciting…! If you follow me on Twitter (which I’m sure you do…) you will have noticed that I have been tweeting a lot lately about something called the Disruptive Innovation Festival. The reason I have been tweeting about it so much is because it is going to be a fantastic event. Taking place over a full four weeks, it is an online festival where you can see content from, and interact with, world leading innovators and thinkers like Janine Benyus, Sir Ken Robinson and collaborative consumption pioneer Rachel Botsman.

Registration is completely free and gives you access to every second of video, webinar, Google Hangout and forum content that will be generated. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, just by signing up you have the chance of winning a pair of hospitality tickets to a Formula E race of your choice, a year’s subscription to Wired Magazine, a copy of Adobe Suite for a year and even more! The Festival starts tomorrow so don’t waste any time! See you there…