Nadia EL-Imam of Edgeryders thinks that part of the issue of institutions not being able to navigate the turmoils, like pandemic and climate crisis, is the excessive reliance on small groups of experts to solve messy interconnected problems. 

Nadia EL-Imam @edgeryders
Co-founder of Edgeryders




Why are you participating in Untitled?

My own motivation for getting involved in this initiative is having seen how quickly things fall apart during times of war, even in affluent, seemingly stable societies. Going from buying our groceries in a posh shop the one day to standing in bread lines the next because supply chains were cut off.

It happens so very quickly and the true costs of the damage plays out on so many different levels.

There are signs this understanding has started to “land” as a consequence of the ongoing pandemic.

During the first phases, institutions and companies all over the world were taken by surprise, unable to quickly adapt to the new reality. This does not bode well for our ability to navigate the turmoil that is sure to accompany climate crisis, ecosystems stress, geopolitical hostilities. Why?

I believe part of the issue is an excessive reliance on small groups of experts to solve messy interconnected problems – which is like expecting a neuron trying to fix things that exist at the level of the brain. Another is an impulse to behave as though the world around us can be tamed to obediently fit into neat boxes and processes of our design. And where it does not, attempt to make it so. When the models break, we are at a loss for how to move through the world in new ways.

My own family managed to weather the storm in no small part because we were embedded in a huge network of diasporas that spanned the globe. They are highly diverse in the sense that they deploy a broad range of approaches to meeting material, social and existential needs.

This is something I could contribute to the gathering and what comes after.

What could be reimagined now?

The community and organisation I helped build, Edgeryders, is working to extend the space of economic models that are conceivable and deployable to build a successful, fair civilisation, while preserving the planet’s ecological balance. Inspired by science fiction, we nurture and support new, radical ways to think about the economy and economic policy.

Conceivable: We are using techniques from modelling, speculative fiction, economic history, anthropology and design to broaden the space of “conceivable economies.”

Deployable: There’s already a “mutant population” of economic agents that operate in the current economy, while aspiring to a more long-termism one. Edgeryders has been learning from these agents, in order to come up with policies to thrive and grow further.

See Edgeryders on video.

Photos: Nadia EL-Imam

Imagining new ways of living through imaginaries and mental models – that is what Dan Lockton focuses on in his work. Imaginaries Lab led by Dan is one of the founding members of Untitled.

Dan Lockton @danlockton @imaginari_es
Interaction designer, Assistant Professor, Future Everyday, at TU Eindhoven’s Industrial Design department. Dan has previously worked at the Royal College of Art (UK) and Carnegie Mellon University (US).

What could be reimagined now?

Dan’s aim is to experiment with alternative ways of life and other life models. Design methodologies are involved in analyzing the correlations between social and environmental benefits. This can be done by defining connections between varied fields such as behavioral and decisional sciences, or human-computer interaction and cybernetics.
How can we live in a more sustainable way? Which lifestyle patterns impact our environment the least and which ones offer a potential solution?

How could we experiment with alternative life models?

The challenge here is to turn alternative futures into tangible realities, something that does not yet exist but is treated as if it were already among us. Potentially, “living laboratories” could be created where communities of people are immersed into different realities, worlds with rules and structures different from those we are used to. By doing so, it is possible to closely observe the alternative models proposed, making them directly accessible to people.

How do you imagine the “living laboratories” will be in ten years’ time?

To date, we’ve seen this kind of experimentation only at a mere technological level, for example within our homes with IoT and smart homes. But if the experimentation was conducted within “living labs” instead, shifting the focus at a social level, the scale could be extended, for example, to entire districts within cities. The “labs” could actually be visited and experienced by communities of people, to better understand their flaws and strengths. Social models are often discussed at a national and administrative level but appear vague and evanescent at a practical level. For this reason, they are perceived by people as distant, both temporally and mentally. Therefore concretizing solutions and allowing people to make their contribution in a participatory way could fill this gap.

Image: Dan Lockton,