Roberto Mangabeira Unger

Roberto Mangabeira Unger has had intellectually strong influence on how we at Untitled understand societal transformation, and especially the elemental role of imagination in it. A recent presentation of his at MIT in the spring further underlines the importance of his presence at Untitled.

“We should not depend on the crisis. It is so as not to depend on crises that we possess the faculty of imagination. The task of the imagination is to do the work of crisis without crisis.

During the final session of the first Untitled festival 2020, Roberto Mangabeira Unger provoked Untitled Alliance about directions, substance, and action. Watch his talk.

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, a philosopher and a social and legal theorist, is the former Minister of Strategic Affairs of Brazil and the present Roscoe Pound Professor of Law at Harvard University. A sample of his work is available on his website

Every day we face and witness the dramatic effects of the climate crisis. The construction industry, which still struggles to apply “green” parameters and constraints in the construction of new buildings, has a major impact on the environmental balance. However, it is necessary to reverse this trend as soon as possible and work to reduce emissions to a minimum by implementing Restorative operations, even on the assets already built. What approaches can be developed to push this transformation as quickly as possible?

With a background as an engineer, Carlo Battisti has always worked in the building sector, gaining solid experiences across twenty years in construction companies, with different roles. Since 2009 he has collaborated with IDM South Tyrol as a project manager in Business Development. In 2015, he founded the Italian chapter of the Living Future Institute. Today Carlo holds the office of President of Living Future Europe.

What should be reimagined now? We can consider a building as an assembly of different components both on technical and social aspects. Therefore, we can imagine that this concept represents exponential complexities on an urban scale. Cities are assemblies that we use to call communities. Is it possible to Redefine paradigms and realize sustainable areas within cities? What could look like an entire carbon neutral district? It is fundamental to encourage sustainable approaches in both local administrations and industries. We, in Europe, sit on a huge opportunity to restore our architectural heritage.

How can we experience environments that are closer to the concept of nature and Sustainability even within cities? It is essential to start with raising people’s awareness. Transmitting the value of environmental sustainability. An interesting concept in this regard is that of biophilia. Biophilic nature is an innate experience in mankind but no longer Instinctive. We got used to living in another way. This is why it is essential to bring this dimension back to people. It is possible to bring people closer by immersing them in these concepts, making them directly experience what a biophilic building truly represents. Living and experiencing it, means that the relationship with nature is immediate and within reach. Many studies show how this kind of architecture has strong benefits on the psycho-physical balance of man.

What kind of orientations in climate policies could experience in our cities in ten years’ time? For sure we need bold projects, decisions and actions. We are facing this climate crisis with irresponsible levity. I see cities walking along through this path using backcasting methodologies. What do we expect 2050 to be? Tackling this question, not only do we need to achieve carbon neutrality but we should develop new tools to manage complexities derived from the worsened effects of climate change. We should engage positive competitions and Collaborations among administrations, states and industries that could impact positively on our societies with disruptive improvement. We can no longer stand still but we need radical changes.

Living Future Europe Website: 

Twitter: @battisti_c , @LFEurope

Let’s aim at a world that is wise, well and awake! Sylvie Shiwei Barbier co-founded Life Itself to build a wiser future through culture, space and community. Life Itself already has its first hubs in Bergerac (France), London and Berlin. Its aim: embodying a new way of living, based on the precepts of Zen wisdom secularised. Setting up co-living spaces to gather the community, launching initiatives of contemplative activism, developing its own businesses to be self sustainable. Life Itself is actively promoting a new narrative for the world!

What could be reimagined now and how did you imagine it could look like in ten years’ time?

We should focus on culture – the “way of being” of a group or society. We should inquire what are wise cultures and societies. We should seek to learn from others who have good practices, implement them, experiment with them. We would value questions rather than answers, value inquiry and beginner’s mind. Individuals would also have a much Deeper understanding of human nature and being. 

For that to happen there would be funding for research ontology, psychology, mental health and education. There would be a new spirit in politics, talking about politics and religion would no longer be a taboo in bars and family conversations, citizens and young people would be a lot more involved in politics and public service would be sexy. There would be a new narrative around human flourishing and people would take the time to come together and discuss important issues both personally and collectively (what do I value, what do we value, what am I / we committed to, how do we work together to bring that Forth,…). 

In education: other countries would learn from leaders such as Finland. In ontology we would learn from the convergence of ancient wisdom traditions (such as Zen) and modern Cognitive science. Mental health and well-being would be taken as seriously as physical health and well-being.

How could we experiment with what you just imagined? 

We should start experimenting with our sense of time and grow our Imagination to operate on a greater time scale, for example the next 7 generations. 

My dream project would be to invite Masters of Being to explore and create a hybrid of practices whose goal would be to nurture our sense of belonging, compassion, qualitative observation, deep listening, Integrity, possibility, creativity and Courage. These would then be practiced on a long term basis by a trial group of activists, intellectuals, Scientists, educators, artists, public servants. Simultaneously there would be matched control groups who do not do the practices. We could then compare things between groups, for example the quality of their life, the capacity to be creative, resourceful, compassionate, take action, Collaborate with others, the quality of the social fabric they are part of, their sense of community etc. 

Such experiments must be set up in the long term to have an impact, and not be a one off. We should see it as an opportunity to create a ‘safe provocation’.  

Who needs to join the Alliance to make what you envisioned true? 

We need to invite the Masters of Being such as Aboriginal Tribes, Tibetan monks and the Dalaï Lama, Marina Abramovic Institute ( MAI ), Plum village (Buddhist mindfulness practice centers founded by Thich Nhat Hanh), Integral Zen and its founder Doshin Roshi, Harvard Professor Roberto Unger , Landmark and Werner Erhard (‘father of Self Help’ according to the NYT), South African Peace Nobel Prize Desmond Tutu, American philosopher Ken Wilber (father of the integral Psychology approach) …

What are the major questions that you are asking yourself about your field? What has not yet been answered or even asked? 

  • What are our blind spots to imagining a new, big, wise future? What are the collective traumas in our way to live present to our interbeing and to take wise collective action?
  • Who are the Masters of Being (being a human being)? Eg monk, marina Abramovic, aboriginal, soufi masters, shamans?
  • Can we imagine a future from a place bigger than our Survival or fear?
  • What is wisdom?
  • What does collective wisdom look like?
  • How do we nourish the seeds of wisdom?
  • What experiences can we create to nourish our Imagination so we don’t imagine from what we already know and create trivial extrapolation?
  • What is a future worth living for? Worth being disappointed for? Worth risking yourself for? Have your ass on the line while you imagine that future!
  • Who are we here to serve?

Sylvie Shiwei Barbier’s interview on youtube can be found HERE.


Twitter: @SylvieShiwei

Photo: Sylvia Shiwei Barbier (c)

EIT Climate-KIC is the EU’s climate innovation agency, working to Accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon and resilient world by enabling systems Transformation. Headquartered in Amsterdam, it operates from 13 hubs across Europe and is active in 39 countries. The EIT Climate-KIC was established in 2010 and is funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.

As a Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC), it brings together more than 400 partners from business, academia, the public and non-profit sectors to create networks of expertise, through which innovative products, services and systems are developed, brought to market and scaled-up for impact.

Twitter: @ClimateKIC


The concept of innovation is still deeply associated with technological innovation as motor for societal progress, emerging out of a competition of ideas. But is it possible to shift this perspective to social innovation, a process of learning collaboratively how to live better together? How might we involve mainstream stakeholders in the process of turning innovation to a public level in order to build dedicated infrastructures, and make it more accessible by communities?

Björn Müller @bjObj0
Co-founder and manager at STRIDE the unSchool,
an education provider and think tank supporting individuals, organisations and cities to turn social innovation into a transformative process of learning,


What could be reimagined now?

At the moment, we witness at the same time too much and not enough novelty. On one hand, there’s a whole infrastructure, from incubators to accelerators and competitions, dedicated to bringing innovation at a global level. But on the other hand, the fundamental issues and problems for which the world is suffering are not addressed, therefore we don’t see any concrete and deep change.

For this reason social innovation seems to be an opportunity. Is there a space or infrastructure to do social innovation across different sectors, not confining it to any sector?

How could we experiment with innovation as such?

Everything starts with challenging a very modern way of understanding innovation which is tied to the idea of continuous growth. This is coupled with the belief that a good life is reached by ever-increasing access and range into the world, making life as easy and fast as possible. Conversely, innovation can deal with a much more life-affirming side, based on participatory and collaborative aspects, putting life at the center, for example in our political, economical and social agendas.

How could social innovation be supported and look like in ten years’ time?

We can imagine a world where social innovation could be publicly supported by states and therefore having the chance to launch social experiments and endeavors at a different scale. Mainstream actors could be involved in shifting their orientation or innovation efforts to contribute in building a sustainable and meaningful lifestyle. In doing so, it is also possible to move away from the concept that makes innovation revolve just around technology. Innovation could then reconnect to its Enlightenment roots, turning it into a force of bettering (quality of) life for all.


Image: Björn Müller,

In today’s business world, ethics are often overlooked for the sake of profit. Charles Armstrong’s mission is to reverse this trend.

Charles Armstrong, @car0lus
Founder of The Trampery, UK,


What could be reimagined in the business world? 

Charles is interested in reimagining the core assumptions of capitalism, in order to find a new role for business in society. His interest towards this topic comes from the lack of discourses about ethics in the entrepreneurial world, an issue that has to be addressed to think about capitalism of the future; in fact, he calls for an urgent shift from a focus on profit towards the team’s well being in a company. He says he is “amazed” by the lack of attention on this issue from his peer entrepreneurs.

How do you think Untitled can help you with your vision? 

Charles wonders whether leaders of conventional businesses are open and prone to rethink the foundations of their activities to the same extent he is trying to do. He is already aware of the presence of the so called “social enterprises” in the UK that are trying to pursue his goal, but realizes their impact is currently very limited since they represent only a fragment of the current global entrepreneurial landscape. 

Who should join the Alliance to help you achieve this goal?

 Charles is willing to meet visionary people as him to build meaningful conversations on the topic, since such a community does not exist yet.


Images: Charles Armstrong,

At the moment trade unions probably have slightly less influence in the civic discussion and have progressively lost their relevance. Mikko is proposing to get back to people and make them feel empowered by unions that can safeguard their rights on a professional level.


Mikko Laakkonen @mlaakkonen
Member of Palvelualojen Ammattiliitto (PAM),
The biggest trade union in Finland helping people working in private service sectors,



What could be reimagined now?

We can reimagine the role of trade unions in the civic discussion, reaffirming their position within the society as strong advocates for social improvements. These days the unions are facing some difficulties in coping with changes in the society, because people have a broader range of uncertainties and they still don’t have a concrete way to tackle them.

How could we experiment with the role of the trade union?

Tackling insecurities can be done through the collectiveness of the trade unions, which is the basis of the union’s action. A union is its members, so how is it possible to use this collective identity of a group of people? By being a meaningful partner for them and supporting collaboration among both single members and partners, whom they usually do not work with. 

How social innovation could be supported and look like in ten years’ time?

Trade unions could be also interpreted and implemented as a democratic platform to ease civic discussion and collect feedback from people.


Image: Mikko Laakonen,

How can we rethink our economy in terms of more inclusivity?

Alexa Clay, @alexaclay
esearcher, writer and public speaker. Director of RSA US,
A global community of proactive problem solvers building networks and opportunities for people to collaborate, influence and demonstrate practical solutions to realise change,


What can be reimagined in today’s economy? 

Alexa believes that the moment we are currently living in requires us to rethink justice in our economic system, finding a way that to offer people opportunities to experience a social and economic mobility.

How would you develop this vision?

Her project requires us to create coalitions around cities, and this can only be done by allowing different social groups that normally do not interact to coonfront one another.

Who needs to join the Alliance to make your vision true?

People from different backgrounds should join the alliance (from grassroot societies, artists or historians). Alexa believes that the right people to help her to make her vision true are generous people, individuals with a natural instinct towards collaboration and with “fire in their bellies” in terms of what is wrong and needs to change.


Image: Alexa Clay,

What if we shift the question to our states from “What responsibility does a government have in achieving decarbonization of the global economy?” to “If a government wants to achieve the outcome of decarbonization by the middle of this century, what can it do to achieve that?”

Ilmi Granoff @theilmatic
Director of ClimateWorks Foundation’s Sustainable Finance Program,
A foundation that has created an international network and a global platform for philanthropy to innovate and accelerate climate solutions,

What could be reimagined now?

The role of our states in pursuing a real climate transition. Right now they are powerful entities. States have capital, they have the ability to raise revenue, issue standards and regulations and represent our collective interest. So what could be the role of a fully committed and ambitious state which truly embraces the goals of the Paris agreement?

How could we experiment with a higher involvement of our states in fighting climate change?

First of all, of course, find a state. After that, ask the question “Given all of the tools that you have at your disposal, what impact can you have to achieve the mid-century outcome of global decarbonization?”. So basically it means to push a state to focus on where to put its tools to reach the goals instead of measuring emissions, for example. That kind of reorientation of the methodology can potentially reveal many underemphasized opportunities.

What kind of changes this reorientation in climate policies could lead to our societies in ten years’ time?

By analyzing 19th century global economies we realized that states have comparative advantages in their economic productivity and performance. Therefore it is imaginable that they can compete with other states on decarbonization advantages and, apart from reducing emission in their own jurisdiction, they’ll probably unveil great opportunities and actually achieve an incredibly important target.


Image: Ilmi Granoff,

Social media has reshaped forever the way we communicate and get information. Nevertheless, the actions of the big companies behind them often raise a lot of criticism: what if social media belonged to the people?


Elina Iida Sofia Hirvonen @interneiti
Freelance journalist, for example
for Ylioppilaslehti, Helsingin Sanomat and Image.


What could be reimagined within the social media world?

Elina criticizes the entrepreneurial side of it, wishing that these platforms could belong to the people and not to companies: the current structure influences how information is spread among the population and does not foster equality. Current social media structures and algorithms are making profit out of people’s most intimate feelings and experiences, and it’s creating conflicts and affecting the media as well. 

How would Untitled help to develop your vision?

Elina sees Untitled as an opportunity to discuss how the ideal social network should be built, debating on which instruments would be necessary to undertake challenges such as ensuring privacy for all the users.

Who needs to join the Alliance to make this envision true?

Involving informatic experts for consultancy would allow to realise the technical side of the idea.

Image: Elina Iida Sofia Hirvonen, @interneiti Instagram