The Now
The Now

Coming out of covid is a chance to radically reimagine our societies

Human beings find it easy to imagine an apocalypse or a disaster. But we struggle to imagine positive alternatives: what education, welfare, workplaces, democracy, or neigh­borhoods might look like in 30–­40 years,

or how we could make them radically better.
If we happen to be able to imagine some­thing radically better, it remains a fantasy.
To consciously yet radically transform the society, we need to engage with the two sides of any conscious change: imagination and experimentation. That’s what Untitled is about.

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Humanity is standing at the precipice of a profound change. The socio-economic and political trends of the last few decades have been indicative of how our well-established systems were broken. Now, the Covid19 pandemic might be a tipping point that could throw us off the cliff. Instead of falling, let’s leap together instead.

Certainly, the early 2020s mark the end of an era.
But, what sort of period in history are we beginning?

Times of transition are hard. The current one is especially hard given the tectonic shifts. The world, as we know it, might be a thing of the past soon – with only a few random recognisable bits remaining. The world as we know it might be a thing of the past soon.

To verbalise such gigantic changes is not easy, so we use cryptics phrases such as ‘the crisis of ­capitalism’, ‘post-capitalism’, and ‘surveillance capitalism’ ; as well as ‘digital transformation’, ‘exponential era’, and ‘the 4th industrial revolution’; along with, ‘the crisis of ­liberalism’, ‘post-truth politics’, post-scarcity economy and ‘meritocratic autocracy’.

In addition, ‘ecosystem collapse’, ‘the sixth wave of mass extinction’, and the emergence of ‘anthropocene’ that require us to move towards ‘climate-neutral society ’, ‘rewiring society’, ecological reconstruction ‘post-fossil era’, posthumanism or deep adaptation.

A jawbreaker, isn’t it?

In simple terms, we are living through an end of a decimation of our own making. Therefore, it is only up to us to make a new world to replace the one that we have left behind.

While we tend to perceive the crises and trends of our times as parallel developments, they cannot be meaningfully understood separately. This does not mean that everything is connected. It means that future is not a meaningful place if we approach them as individual crisis to be dealt with so we can return back to normal. This is why we suggest that we see them as one.

…a proactive ­imagination of a better tomorrow.Seeing them collectively changes our approach from constantly predicting the near future and from solving problems as they come, to that of a proactive imagination of a better tomorrow. A longer term view, if you may.

Notions such as a

‘nation’
‘worker’
‘science’
‘money’

‘a nation’, ‘a worker’, ‘science’ and ‘money’ are used as if they had always existed in our lexicon. In reality, they were just concepts which were made a reality due to previous historical transformations. It is but obvious that our current transformations should throw up new concepts and realities that stem from them.

But, we are often prisoners of what we aim to leave behind. The challenge is to be able to reimagine without falling into the conceptual traps of the past. We are often ­prisoners of what we aim to leave behind.

For instance, the idea that an individual’s materialism is good for collective wellbeing has lately been magnificently disproven. Although some politicians and corporations may parrot the simplistic idea that doubling GDP will double contentment, it is neither true or ecologically viable.

One can argue that this deep interconnection between the crisis and our most deeply held beliefs can also be a good thing. They present us with not an opportunity to not just fix problems as they come, but a responsibility to flip the system. Consciously that can only happen through imagination.

“The mind is an empty machine… It is shaped by the organisation of ­society and the culture. And in this sense, the history of politics is internal to the history of the mind.”

All these changes are happening at once

Since we have focused so much in fixing problems in the existing system we have done a poor job of imagining a new one. Consequently, we are not sure how to title the story of our future. This is why, we believe, the future is Untitled.

We, however, can attempt to get a sense of which ­direction to head by refusing to go back to the current normal. In the foreseeable future, we attempt to ­imagine the unimaginable and experiment with what we imagine – the Untitled

“The defining human attribute is transcendence.
There is always more in us, in each of us
individually and in all of us collectively.”
The Ten Year Journey
The Ten Year Journey

Imaginations

Geoff Mulgan, Professor of Collective Intelligence at Public Policy and Social Innovation at University College London points out that human beings find it easy to imagine an apocalypse or a disaster. Most science fiction is filled with such ideas. “But we struggle to imagine positive alternatives: what our care or education systems, welfare, workplaces, democracy or neighbourhoods might be like in 30-40 years. And we appear to be worse at doing this than in the past,” writes Mulgan, in his essay on social imagination, titled The Imaginary Crisis.

Why are we so inept at this? Well, not everyone is. There are numerous, powerful examples of wise imaginations of our collective futures.

It easy to ­imagine an apocalypse, a disaster or a ­collapse, but we struggle to ­imagine positive alternatives.

At Untitled we attempt to do just that.

Untitled is a global alliance of over forty members initiated by the think tank Demos Helsinki. It aims to reimagine the central institutions of our society and to experiment on how to rebuild them. What should democracy look like? What should our relationship with trees be like? What might unemployment mean in the future? These and many more questions are being asked by our alliance members.

Experiments initiated by the alliance will be worked on, tested, and developed over the next 10 years.

Here’s a glimpse:

 

Experiment no 1 Grip

Support for meaningful unemployment

We are undergoing structural changes in employment, with no adequate support mechanisms in place. Consequently, a big group of people are being treated unfairly and have great financial worries, leading to anxiety, depression and marginalisation.

DEVELOPING PERSONAL POWERS

Grip changes the way we see those who are ‘not fully employed’, from ‘objects’ to ‘subjects’. It is a financial innovation that provides data based support for people’s biggest worries, even before they start worrying. It aggregates worries and resources, and through machine learning helps people respond with a combination of peer, financial, (existing) public support mechanisms as well as recognising and developing personal strengths.

FREEDOM FROM ANXIETY

Grip takes away anxiety and frees person’s cognitive and social capacities. Additionally early support lowers costs, for the person and the public sector.

SEEKING FUNDING AND A TEAM

Grip is initiated by a company specially set up for it, and it is seeking funding and a team to run first pilots. To help get in touch with Mikko–Pekka Hanski, mikkopekkahanski(at)gmail.com, 

Experiment no 2 Infrastructure for Future Democracy

Creating democratic spaces of the future

It is becoming increasingly clear that embedding more participative and collaborative methods is the next stage of democratic governance. However, we lack the local spaces, both physical and virtual, in which good quality, informed participation can take place.

SPACES FOR DEMOCRATIC CONVERSATIONS

2021 will be a year of practical experimentation in the possibilities of existing structures and networks such as public libraries to act as spaces for democratic conversations that go ­beyond their immediate localities into the regional, national and European levels.

LIBRARIES ARE A GOOD PLACE TO START

By finding existing spaces, we can access existing networks and give people the opportunity to participate in familiar settings, increasing accessibility. Libraries are already well understood as places to connect to knowledge, it is a logical step (already taken in many places) to go from there to participating in action and decision making – locally and beyond.

WANTED: PHYSICAL PLACES FOR TESTING THE IDEA

If you run a library or other local physical space that might be suitable, and would like to connect us with your local networks, we at Democratic Society can offer our expertise on democracy and participation, and connection into global democracy networks. We are hoping to create a network of initial pilots, working with Public Libraries 2030, during 2021. To collaborate, contact Anthony Zacharzewski, ajz10(at)demsoc.org, www.demsoc.org

Experiment no 3 Sustainable housing with assets of good life

Home with community income and support for zero-carbon lifestyles

There is an increasing need to provide new ways for marginalised people such as immigrants, unemployed and homeless people to connect to society. At the same time, the climate crisis and the collapse of biodiversity forces us to find new solutions also in social housing.

COMBINING HOUSING, INCOME AND ZERO CARBON LIFESTYLES

Sustainable housing with assets of good life is a concept that combines dwelling with community income and support for ecological lifestyles, mainly through participating in the chores of the housing company and tending common spaces, roof-top and yard with food production. One of its initiators is Y–Foundation whose mission is to continue Housing First model to enable all inhabitants a fair transition towards carbon neutral living.

NEW PLACES TO GROW COMMUNITIES IN

The housing community and living environment in a carbon-neutral wooden city block combined provide a sense of community, possibility to reach sustainable lifestyles, attachment to the neighbourhood, food and work for the dwellers, acting as springboard and an interface to the rest of the society.

SEEKING PLOTS, FINANCE AND EXPERTISE

The experiment is in concepting phase and seeking plots for building, as well as finance and expertise in alternative economic models and urban ecology. If interested in collaborating, please contact Inari Virkkala for architecture & building, inari.virkkala(at)ysaatio.fi, and Tia de Godzinsky, tia.degodzinsky(at)ysaatio.fi, for the the community and lifestyle aspects, ysaatio.fi

Experiment no 4 Politics of being

A political movement based on a new view of human beings

Any social or political envisioning is constrained by an invisible frame of view of the nature of human beings. Whereas science, philosophy and people’s values have arguably shifted towards a more interconnected yet less uniform view, this does not reflect on a societal level programmes.

BEING IS POLITICAL

Politics of Being is a political movement that starts by asking who we are as humans in this day and age and based on that what we should want politically. It incorporates ideas from philosophy, wisdom traditions, technology and (neuro)science to a new value based political movement and programme for wiser society.

A SHARED PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP TO POLITICS

Through politics of being people can relate to politics through more personal, yet shared ways. This way we can gain new vitality to engage in politics and transform society, thereby replacing the current mindset of resignation.

INVITATION TO JOIN A NEW POLITICAL MOVEMENT

Politics of being is currently inviting people around the world to both online meetings and longer sessions for reimagining human and political programmes to support the ontological shift at hand. The initiative is led by Life Itself, lifeitself.us.

Experiment no 5 Future labour union

A union for
rewarding work

The idea of rewarding work has more dimensions than pay, decent working conditions and working time. It should include the ability to connect one’s work for big meaningful issues of our time – most importantly the climate crisis. These have ­previously been an individual responsibility with collective efforts missing.

PLATFORM FOR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT AND SOCIAL ACTION

Future Labour Union organises communities at work to support in issues relevant outside working life as well. The Future Labour Union will provide a community and a platform for people to come together, discuss and solve our challenges together.

COLLECTIVE FORCE FOR REWARDING WORK

Workers will gain collective force to discuss, negotiate and fight for work that is rewarding. The ability to connect labour movement and labour force organisation to big societal shifts such as decarbonisation will add an extra leverage to tackling these issues.

JOIN THE FUTURE LABOUR UNION

Future Labour Union is in a concept phase and is led by The Service Union United PAM in Finland. The experiment is looking to connect with employers and labour union activists. Contact Antti Veirto, antti.veirto(at)pam.fi, www.pam.fi

Experiment no 6 Expanding Typologies for Civic spaces

Public sector trans­formation from a service provider to an infrastructure for imagination and experimentation

We are nothing except in the context of our shape-shifting interdependencies; our sense of self continuously being recreated by all that surrounds us, human and not, “real” and not. Our metaphors, our stories, our fictions, our social imaginaries give shape to the world, not only the other way round. Hence public imagination has become of paramount importance, we however lack almost entirely an infrastructure of (and for) imagination.

FROM PUBLIC SPACES TO CIVIC SPACES

We need to add to the repertoire of public and civic spaces, signalling a shift in ideology of top-down efficiency for a politics of fascination and horizontal ties. This is enabled by policies to augment intangible resources and assets, social-structuring society for mutual aid, urban and civic commons, the right to the city.

SENSE OF AGENCE

Adding to the repertoire and diversity of public and civic spaces can help create a sense of agency and release civic capital assets. It can also add a spirit of experimentation and play, all while articulating micro politics and social action, plus, allow for the collective development of people’s will in a way that current political structures do not.

WANTED: A CITY TO EXPERIMENT WITH

We need infrastructure for imagination at an urban scale. Civic Spaces is an experiment led by Experimentalista. The concept has been validated in Mexico City over several years and applications, and is looking for places to further experiment and implement learnings on a permanent basis through planning and operations of urban space. Please contact Gabriella Gómez-Mont.

Experiment no 7 Evo Untitled Accelerator

Entrepreneurs changing capitalism

The debate on the crisis of capitalism is leaving out the creative force that fuels our economies, the entrepreneur. Globally 10,000 accelerator programmes are educating entrepreneurs in a narrow model based on limited liability corporations, equity investment and profit. This approach is reinforcing the most damaging aspects of capitalism.

CHANGING CAPITALISM FROM ITS CORE

Evo Untitled is an experimental 3-month accelerator programme, delivered online with international co-creators and partners. It introduces entrepreneurs to a radically broadened spectrum of legal forms, funding models and governance structures. This approach opens a new globally connected and institutional field of innovation for entrepreneurs.

AVOIDING THE JUXTAPOSITION BETWEEN
REFORMISTS AND REVOLUTIONARIES

Entrepreneurs that are increasingly purpose driven will be able to access training that is more suitable for the next phase of our economic system. This makes the renewal of the economic system less juxtaposed between reformist capitalists and post-capitalist.

SEEKING FUNDING, CITIES AND HELP
IN DESIGNING THE PROGRAMME

The Trampery is ready to launch the Evo Untitled accelerator with the Untitled community and is seeking help in designing the programme, mentors, cities to implement the programme in, and help in funding the delivery. Contact Sally Denton, sally(at)thetrampery.com, thetrampery.com

Experiment no 8 Corporate activism framework

A tool for corporates to move from talking about and lobbying society to action

There is a wide recognition that tackling ­challenges such as the climate crisis, the ­increasing disconnection of urban and rural ­communities, or even the current global ­pandemic, requires the private sector to step in. This role goes beyond sustainability and responsibility of their own operations.

FROM MINIMUM RESPONSIBILITY TO MAXIMUM CHANGE

Corporate activism is a management approach where companies identify all their places of influence and use chosen places to promote responsibility as much as possible. This is distinct from exercising social responsibility through single specific projects or investing profits into societal causes. If corporate social responsibility (CSR) sets the bar with minimum requirements, corporate activism actively seeks to raise the bar through company’s own actions.

OUT OF DISILLUSION

Whereas people are getting disillusioned by the sustainability claims, corporate activism can have a significant impact on the bottom line, for instance through higher loyalty among your customers and top talent who share your values, access to an increasing capital market of impact investing as well as being upfront in regards to tightening regulation.

SEEKING COMPANIONS IN ACTIVISM

The corporate activism framework is in a principle phase, created by Ylva and Demos Helsinki. One of its early results is a regenerative architecture manifesto published by the Estonian Architectural Review MAJA. We are seeking other companies and business communities to develop and challenge it. Contact Antti Ruuska, antti.ruuska(at)ylva.fi, ylva.fi

Experiment no 9 Trees as infrastructure

Cultivating a meaningful relationship with trees as a foundation for urban greenery to become a more ­prevalent nature-based solution

Positioning trees as a mere decorative element of ­urban spaces results in a detrimental representation of their potential. Indicating trees as a cost on the planning level is ignoring the plethora of benefits they offer beyond return on investment.

FORGING CONNECTIONS BETWEEN TREES,
PEOPLE AND INSTITUTIONS

Positioning trees as a mere decorative element of urban spaces results in a detrimental ­r­epresentation of their potential. Indicating trees as a cost on the planning level is ignoring the plethora of benefits they offer beyond return on investment.

DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS LEAD TO CARE

When we relate to trees on our terms, and see them as community members, mentors, ­mediators; therapy, sanctuary, celebration; service-providers, global citizens, parts of ­ourselves – we make better choices for a healthy society and planet.

SEEKING CASE STUDIES

EIT Climate-KIC has initiated the project and is looking for further input and inspiration in the form of case studies to develop and refine the underlying co-creation methodology. www.climate-kic.org

the UNtitled future
the UNtitled future

the future

We know that a lot of people are experimenting with imaginations of our futures. We bring them together in a brave new space, that allows collective action for transformative change of our basic institutions, and the ideas and concepts behind them

The experiment support clinics, topic deep dives and the annual Untitled Festival. They provide a framework for imagining, promoting and launching powerful experiments.

We invite pioneering thinkers and activists to come together to reimagine the society, to form unlikely alliances and to initiate real-world experiments. We invite art and the avant-garde to play a defining role in this societal transformation. At Untitled, art’s role is not so much to describe the crisis we are in, nor to provide solutions, but to lead the way in leaving normality behind, in imagining and in experimenting.

UNTITLED is a space for ­different radical imaginations to come together.UNTITLED is thus primarily a space for different radical imaginations to come together: a place for people who have understood that there is no return to normal, who have seen a glimpse of a transformation, and want to expand their view with experimental projects.

Those who are committed to invest effort, time, networks and resources in collaborating with the Alliance to bring out a radically more just, sustainable and joyful era.

The untitled impact model

a narrative of a ­
sustainable and ­joyful
transfor­mation of ­society

Do come together with us to make sense of the situation by the force of synthesis – to see all these massive tensions revealed and catalysed by the pandemic, as one phenomenon.

Who is untitled for?

Those interested in ­executing non-obvious ­ventures (cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral) that have social imagination and experimentation at the heart of them.

Those who want to position themselves as transformative agents beyond sustainability or innovation.

Those who see the potential and possibility for systemic social change, one beyond sectoral or technocratic realms.

Together we can refuse to see the same crises as recurring phenomena and resolve to start a new era. This provides us with an opportunity and a responsibility. Opportunity to imagine the unimagined and responsibilities to bring our imagination into fruition.

For the first time in history, the entire human kind is in the crisis together. Therefore, the world is waiting for a radical positive change. Let’s take a leap together.