Archive for the ‘The Nabou Chronicles’ Category

International Certificate Course: Urban Food Challenge

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Citizen Centred Innovation: International Certificate Course
Toronto – Barcelona
September 14 – 26, 2014

Complex social, environmental and business challenges need new thinking and new connections to come up with new solutions. Our rapidly urbanizing world faces evolving demands and threats. How can we prepare for a changed future?

We have partnered with Strategic Innovation Lab at OCAD U (Toronto) and Bau Design College (Barcelona) to deliver an exciting learning opportunity. Join other decision makers, influencers and passionate implementers who are building their skills to take on some of the biggest issues their cities are facing. This unique program brings international participants together for deep exploration in a two week immersion experience. The creative hubs of Toronto and Barcelona are emerging as global leaders in urban innovation and serve as the perfect backdrop for experimentation. One week in each city brings a diverse perspective to the challenges at hand.

You will receive intensive training in a range of disciplines including human factors, design thinking, system mapping, sustainable business models, and co-creation techniques and methods.

More importantly, you will apply your learning to find creative solutions to a complex problem: this time we will be focused on food waste in urban centres. In addition to lectures and hands-on practice, the program includes daily field explorations of food-related aspects in each city, including visits to innovative social food enterprises such as Not Far From The Tree, The Stop Community Food Centre, and a private Jane’s Walk in Toronto; participating in a Tapas Lab; going on a Hidden City Tour of Barcelona (unique guided tour through the old town led by homeless guides); and engaging with organic farmers to understand the inter-dependencies and trade-offs in the complex urban food system.

Download the course brochure with detailed program information by clicking here.

To register in the course:

For further inquiries:
T: +1 905 707 8956
F: +1 416 703 3885

Toronto’s Lab Movement – An Opportunity for Collective Impact

Friday, November 1st, 2013

On November 6th OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) will be hosting the next meeting of Lab Practitioners in the series organized by MaRS SiG. The speaker for this meeting is Hal Hamilton, who will be sharing lessons learned from his decade of work with the Sustainable Food Lab.

The series has been successful in achieving a number of important objectives: It raised awareness about individual labs and their work; it highlighted lessons learned from the various practices in labs, and last but not least, it continued strengthening the links between the various members thus helping the emergence of stronger and more resilient community.

As the community matures, there is a sense emerging that the community is seeking something beyond the networking and learning about other labs. In conversations with a few of the regular participants, I sensed that a new need is emerging, a need to tackle something bigger, beyond the capabilities of the single labs. This reminded me of the collective impact approach described in a paper of Stanford Social Innovation Review. Could we find together one big challenge that we all apply our experimentation and our multidisciplinary collaboration capabilities to address? Or has the movement not matured that far yet and needs more time to get to that point? It’s definitely worth a deep conversation at the next gathering.

Can We Catch Up With Angola?

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

This was the title of a talk by Madelaine Droha, Canada correspondent for The Economist in January 2013 at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto. A provocative title for sure given that she was addressing a Canadian audience. Curiously enough this event on a mostly economic topic was co-sponsored by the LRC (Literary Review of Canada) and CIC (Canadian International Council).

Behind the provocative title the topic was about lessons Canada should learn from other global resource economies, in particular using sovereign wealth funds to create a development fund for the future.

Around the world wealthy countries like Norway as well as developing countries like Timor and indeed Angola have been putting at least part of revenues from non-renewable natural resources such as oil, gas, timber and mining products into a sovereign fund, whose investments yields would be used for preparing for a future without such resources.

Canadian governments have largely balked at saving such revenues and are “Spending like There’s No Tomorrow”, which is the title of the essay Ms. Drohan wrote for the Literary Review of Canada in January/February 2013 issue. The essay is based on her recently published CIC report “9 Habits of Successful Resource Economies”.  The report is available in print form and also electronically from CIC’s web site. It provides an interesting new perspective on Canada’s economy and the future.

Sustainable Business Models – A Demand Side Perspective

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

As a convener of the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group (SSBMG) at OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) I am committed to developing tools and methods to help organizations become more sustainable. As such I am thrilled with the research of colleagues like Antony Upward in developing an exhaustive business model ontology and deriving new visual tools from it (a super version of the BM Canvas tool developed by Alex Osterwalder). It struck me, however, that not withstanding all the good intentions behind the development of the many tools and methods trying to achieve the same, they all can be classified as “supply side” solutions, that is beautiful and interesting solutions developed without seriously researching what the needs of the intended users are.  I set out therefore to add “demand side” research stream to the research agenda of SSBMG.

To investigate users needs we thought we would start by better understanding how important business decisions are made in organizations and at what stage of that decision process business model considerations come in. We were interested particularly in decision-making processes in situations  involving trade-offs between economic, social and environmental elements. The first steps in that direction was to investigate the mindset of leaders in organizations that are progressive in their views on balancing these elements. This research is currently underway through a Major Research Project by Ben McCammon as part of his  degree requirement at the Strategic Foresight & Innovation (SFI) Masters program. Ben is using the design probe method to collect information on the mindset of leaders in Canadian B-Corps. I am anticipating reading about his findings before the end of this year.

The next step will be to do the same research on regular organizations and comparing the two mind sets and decision making processes to better understand how decisions pertaining to sustainability are made and what the optimal leverage points would be to influence this process. The aspiration is to use these insights to inform the design of tools and methods intended to assist organizations become more sustainable.

A Week of Awards

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

This week two of the educational programs I have been involved with have received awards. First, the core curriculum of the new Design, Engineering & Commerce (DEC) College at Philadelphia University was recognized for its transformational nature and won the Core77 Design Award in Educational Initiative category. The jury commented on all finalists by video; the DEC segment is towards the end but may be worth watching to understand why the program won top honors.

Then the World Future Society announced its F:BL 2012 awards (Futures: BetaLaunch 2012) and I was thrilled to learn that the Strategic Foresight & Innovation (SFI) Masters Program at OCAD University has been selected as one of the top future-oriented start-ups.

When innovators go into uncharted areas and design new solutions, they frequently can’t tell whether they were right or not about their innovation. It is only when their work is recognized by others that they can reduce uncertainty and feel on the right track. There is no better moment for innovators! Congratulations to the teams at DEC and SFI for their excellence.

Euro-Diaries: Oslo

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

The last Scandinavian destination on my study tour was Oslo. For this leg of the trip I flew SAS. I had checked in electronically with a Nokia Lumia 800 phone that Steve Heck, the CIO of Microsoft Canada, had lent me to try its Windowsphone 7.5 OS.  My boarding pass was downloaded as a PDF to the phone and included a QR code. I had to check in my suitcase and was directed to the SAS self-service kiosks to get the tags to be affixed to the luggage. When I was prompted to put in my boarding pass for a scan, I put in the Lumia 800 with the e-pass open. That didn’t work. After several attempts at enlarging and positioning the QR code and not having success, an employee of SAS came to help. He took over the Lumia and tried everything I had already done, which told me that the use of e-boarding passes is normal and that Customer Service reps behave the same everywhere. We finally used the flight booking reference to print a paper boarding pass, which then allowed me to get the luggage tags.

I am not sure what the cause of the problem with the Lumia e-pass. Nokia phones are very widely used in Europe, particularly in Scandinavian countries. I suspect it has to do with the PDF rendering of the QR code by Windowsphone within the e-pass. More testing required.

My main destination in Oslo was AHO, the Oslo Architecture & Design School. It is in an interesting building. It used to house the maintenance workshops of Oslo’s electric utility. AHO re-arranged the building and added a new wing.

The building has three levels, the second of which is designed as a green roof and patio with “green” stairs leading to the cafeteria on the ground floor:

On our arrival day at AHO critiques/defenses of graduation thesis was in progress. I visited a few of the Architecture Institute graduation projects and learned a few facts: the jury is fully external to AHO and usually includes 1-2 (sometimes all 3) from other Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden). Jury members receive the full thesis text a couple of weeks before defense, prepare written comments on it and then each jury member presents his/her opinion to the audience attending the defense. The first such presentation was so detailed, I thought it was the student presenting!

I also attended some of the sustainable design graduation projects. They were taking place in a large studio, where each of the defending projects had to be displayed on a dedicated wall space. Summary color prints where available as take away as well as a few copies of the published thesis in a paperback booklet format that I found really nice to handle and to read. One project I found particularly interesting was a study of a small island called Utsira and the planning for developing the island to meet ecological objectives by 2022. The analysis and planning addressed energy, buildings, food, culture, transportation and communications in an integrated fashion.

I took one afternoon to meet with local Sandboxer Brock LeMieux at his “project” site. The site turned out to be an old pub being converted by Brock and his partner into a co-working space.While conversion work was still in progress, the energy of the place was palpable. We decided to chat outside to take advantage of the sunny weather. Chairs, table and pots of coffee were simply moved to a minimalist deck in front of the place, where we then had a wonderful conversation on models for co-working places and incubation, the future of higher education and the role of design and design thinking. I enjoyed the discussion thoroughly. It reminded me much of our Overlap discussions.

On my last afternoon in Oslo I was taken on a tour of the building by Prof. Hakan Edeholt. During the tour I finally had opportunity to meet with students doing interdisciplinary projects in their studios.

The first group (Bai Daniel Ogaard, Kristian Aarseth, Morten Evensmo and Hanne Nilsen), was working on a Laparoscopic Simulator in virtual reality in collaboration with a corporation, SimSurgery. Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgery technique putting high demands of coordination and precision on the surgeons. The simulator they designed is compact, plug-and-play, and an affordable desktop simulator resolving a number of the disadvantages of previous simulators.

The project was part of an initiative called Protohype AHO 2012, which aimed at hyping prototypes of future technologies. It reminded me strongly of the SFI program’s tangible futures activities.

The second group of students researched the needs and experience of old people in  “assisted living” facilities and proposed solutions for improvements through technology, design and empowerment. After a PowerPoint presentation provided to me on the spot without prior notice I was also shown videos that the students produced to pitch their results and design proposals in an effective way.

An interesting aspect of AHO design program is that groups of students haves to organize themselves as independent commercial design cabinets and develop a pitch of their skills and interests. The companies participating in the program also develop a short presentation of their strengths and research interests. After attending each other pitches each side (student design cabinets and companies) lists the top three preferred “partner” they would like to work with. The program administration then tries to match the parties. In the last round no one got assigned a partner lower in preference than their second choice. IP rights of the then carried out research and developments are owned by the company but students get employment or long-term contracts opportunities through this system.



Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Last week I attended the Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI. Called BIF-6 in reference to it’s organizer, the Business Innovation Factory and it’s sixth occurrence, the two-day event exposes participants to thirty exceptional storytellers in a intimate theater setting. I had attended last year’s BIF-5 and found it inspiring and energizing, so I went for more.

An even greater value in attending BIF-6 is really in the networking that takes place before, after and between the stories. BIF founder Saul Kaplan calls it “random collisions of unusual suspects” because he and his team use diversity and diversification as a core principle to enrich these collisions. Storytellers as well as participants are from every walk of life imaginable: from serial entrepreneurs, to educators, technologists, business executives, high-school students to a twelve-year old girl that set up a domestic grease collection and reprocessing into bio fuel that helped heat the house of needy families in her town.

Daring to be Great

The last presentation of Day 2 of BIF-6 was by Keith Yamashita, titled originally “Change, to the Power of Ten”. Inspired and moved by previous storytellers and encounters with participants, he changed his title to “Is it worth daring to be great?” As he was reflecting on the role of trust between two people in the larger context of teams and organizations, he recounted an incident, when a business partner and mentor (Alan Webber) vested his full trust in him. For 10 seconds he became very emotional and a tear ran down his cheek. He quickly recovered and continued his presentation, but in those 10 seconds I learned about trust and its importance in personal relations and in social networks small and large more than any books or courses could teach.

Random Collision

Later the next day, in the coach taking us to Providence Airport I happened to sit next to another participant, Monika Hardy (@monk51295). With a long wait for our flights, we settled in one of the airport’s seating areas, opened our laptops, intended to get some work done. But the conversation started in the coach did not want to go away. I was still reflecting on my learning experience from Keith’s presentation, and found myself in an amazing deep-dive conversation with Monika, who turned out to be an innovator herself in the field of children education. I was fascinated and encouraged that in a public school system, a space has been allowed to experiment with new methods and ways. Monika described how children choose what they want to learn and are then guided by a different kind of teacher, a facilitator of learning that connects the dots of the child’s interests without imposing an unnatural regiment of learning. In fact, the children go through a “detox” to unlearn some of the old behaviors learned in school.

Emotional Learning

As I was listening to her passionately describe her work , it occurred to me that the “detox” approach might well be applicable to business. We need to unlearn behaviors drilled into us by the existing system, before we can innovate new ways and structures to do business. I am planning on following up on this conversation.

So, what else did I learn? We seem to be wired for absorbing a significantly higher volume of knowledge, when we are emotionally engaged. Traditional learning, however, focuses primarily on information supply, without much of an emotional component. The result is that we learn the information without the full context that gives the information so much richer meanings in multiple dimensions. We do the same in business. As Keith said: “The biggest fallacy of business is that it’s only rational. All business is personal and all business is human”. That’s why one random encounter with an unusual suspect can teach you more than volumes of HBR.

So as I am soaking up all the learning from these two random BIF-6 collisions, the question swirling in my head is: Could we design emotional components to our learning processes at every level? That’s a very intriguing idea particularly as we witness the emergence of a new system of learning based on modules of knowledge that learners can pick and choose from. Imagine if each of these modules was designed to enlist an emotional component of learning.

I’ll be trying to write about the many other encounters that sparked my brain at BIF-6, so stay tuned!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 at 1:09 pm and is filed under The Nabou Chronicles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

monika hardy says:
September 21, 2010 at 2:46 pm

nice capture.

i keep reliving our conversation with my students and others.. so much packed in. important stuff.

on the detox project.
when i got home and studied Keith more… his site is very similar to our detox site.. check it out here:

how rich am i to have met you Nabil… :)

Accenture Global CIO Forum

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

The Foush just arrived in Washington, DC, to speak at the Accenture Global CIO Forum. The theme of this year’s forum is IT Matters: Shaping the Future of the Enterprise. While many aspects of social media/digital communication have been handled by the Marketing and Communication teams within organizations, its increasing importance within strategic planning is making many CIOs stand up and take notice.

Rahaf will be on a panel discussing the implications of these developments on the CIO’s role and hear the insights of some of the other panelists including:

  • Elizabeth Hackenson, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, The AES Corporation
  • Rob Webb, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Hilton Worldwide
  • Richard Williams, Vice President and Group Chief Information Officer, AstraZeneca

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 at 5:44 pm and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Post-Copenhagen: What Strategies Now?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010


Natalie Jeremijenko is an artist whose background includes studies in biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering. She is a recipient of the 2008-2009 Van Alen Institute-New York Prize Fellowship in Sustainable Cities and the Social Sciences, and was recently named one of the 40 most influential designers by I.D. Magazine. She is an artist not-in-residence at the Institute for the Future (IFTF) in Palo Alto. Jeremijenko directs the xDesign Environmental Health Clinic at NYU, whose concepts are at the roots of our own xCLINIC project.

Her work is described as experimental design, hence xDesign, as it explores opportunities presented by new technologies for non-violent social change. Her research centers on structures of participation in the production of knowledge and information, and the political and social possibilities (and limitations) of information and emerging technologies — mostly through public experiments. In this vein, her work spans a range of media from statistical indices (such as the Despondency Index, which linked the Dow Jones to the suicide rate at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge) to biological substrates (such as the installations of cloned trees in pairs in various urban micro-climates) to robotics (such as the development of feral robotic dog packs to investigate environmental hazards). Jeremjenko’s permanent installation on the roof of Postmasters Gallery in Chelsea Model Urban Development (MUD) provides infrastructure and facilities for high-density bird cohabitation in an environmental experiment in interaction with the New York City bird population.

Natalie will be in Toronto to attend our xCAMP, a “camp”-style session to collaboratively evolve and extend the environmental health clinic (xCLINIC) concept in Toronto and design its implementation. She will be presenting as part of sLab’s Explorations Series 1:30 – 3:00 pm on Thursday February 25th at sLab (Suite 600, 100 McCaul St.). Don’t miss this unique opportunity.

The Ups and Downs of Policy Innovation

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

One of the defining characteristics of change of the past decade has been without doubt the growing trend towards collaboration. Assumed by many to be driven by technological advances in information and communications technologies (ICT) this trend has reflected itself in many aspects: from an abundance of collaboration tools using voice, video, white-boarding tools, desktop sharing etc. to the more interesting appearance of collaborative production models such as open source software, open source hardware, co-creation, crowd sourcing and the many other names assigned to various aspects of this phenomenon.

Policy – The Grass Roots road

The policy development area has not escaped this trend. We witnessed the proliferation of grass root movements aiming at reclaiming control of at least certain elements of the policy articulation and development processes. This was the decade of Orange Revolutions and of the Obama campaign that redefined citizen engagement in the United States. One example much closer to home of such movements is Change Camp, an “unconference” organized in Toronto (Canada) in 2009 with the stated goal: “Re-imagine Government & Citizenship in the Age of Participation“.

The ideas and methods of Change Camp Toronto quickly spread to other geographies and became a full-fledged movement advocating radical improvement in citizens engagement, change in how policies are developed, and building tools that enable better organization and mobilization of citizens. These grass root movements constitute a new and innovative bottom-up approach to collaboratively articulating needs, developing solutions and defining policies.

Policy – The Hierarchy Road

Meanwhile government institutions at every level continued their traditional century-old top-down planning approach to policies development, and while some efforts were made to increase consultations with constituents (the traditional town-hall meetings or the occasional costly public hearings), it can be argued that no significant systemic improvements in the participatory nature of these processes were achieved.

A Dangerous Gap

There is an inherent problem in that no one has figured out yet how to link the bottom-up approach with the top-down one. These two processes are currently not sufficiently communicating and have definitely no designs for convergence or integration. In his recent Unfinished Business lecture at the Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) of the Ontario College for Arts and Design (OCAD), David Eaves summed up this problem as “digital citizenry trying to work with analog government“. He warned that this gap is dangerous and cannot continue. The question is whether it will be closed peacefully or violently.

Changing Government from the Inside

Not everything is bleak. In July 2009 the Canadian federal government published a report titled “Canada@150: Towards a New Era of Collaboration & Innovation in Government“. In it are the findings of a year-long internal initiative “to help build cross-cutting, horizontal networks that could unite people, issues, expertise, and departments in new and innovative ways“. While this initiative provides some hope for the evolution of government, it is clearly limited to internal multi-disciplinary government collaboration.

Making Ends Meet

Still, Eaves gap analysis resonated well with me. In the context of developing a syllabus for a graduate course on Business Model & Policy Innovation, I have been discussing with Mark Kuznicki (one of the founders of Change Camp) and others how to connect these two fundamental approaches to policy development and innovation. We will have an excellent opportunity to advance our thinking on this issue in the upcoming Change Camp 2010 which is being designed in the context of the Ontario municipal elections scheduled for late October of this year.

I am looking forward to Change Camp 2010 and to participating in finding solutions and designing processes to close this gap, at least in the City of Toronto.