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Thursday Complexity PostJune 20, 2013


Lasting Change Seeded in Temporary Space     


Freespace, inspired by Burning Man and experimental civic hacking, is a grass roots effort designed to use empty commercial spaces temporarily for the purpose of creating lasting community change. Freespace co-founder Mike Zuckerman, the director of sustainability for the Zen Compound, which bills itself as the world's greenest nightclub, got a $1 lease on a 14,000 square foot warehouse in San Francisco for the month of June.


San Francisco warehouse,before and after, from the Freespace Indiegogo campaign


With help from a local real estate firm and the Mayor's Office for Economic and Workforce Development, Zuckerman, fellow Freespace organizers and several hundred volunteers turned their imagination and energies loose. A FastCoExist story by Ariel Schwartz explains everything at the warehouse property now-desks, couches, paint, art supplies, gardening tools, sound systems, refrigerator and food-has been donated or foraged.


So far, murals-some by well-known artists including Zio Ziegler and Ian Ross-have beautified internal and external walls, plants from a former agricultural education program have been transplanted into a community garden behind the warehouse and people have repaired bicycles and started a bicycle library where bikes can be signed out for as long as two days. Participants have also started a book club and yoga classes and created space where people gather for lectures, speeches, panel discussions, open mike sessions, and concerts. And they have conducted neighborhood tours and a clothing drive.


"We put a weekend hackathon into a 30 day window," Zuckerman told FastCoExist. "It's up to people inside to decide what happens."


Many of the Freespace organizers are veterans of Burning Man, an annual gathering in Nevada where people experiment with shared innovations then honor the environment by leaving no trace. Many also took part in the National Day of Civic Hacking, held the weekend of June 1-2, in which 11,000 participants in 83 cities organized to help governments, computing enthusiasts and ordinary citizens collaborate in using technology to connect people and address local problems. While hacking has conventionally had negative associations, the hackforchange blog explains, "We like to think of a hacker as someone who uses what's available to improve or enhance our homes, workplaces and lives."


Schwartz writes that Fortune 500 companies, including Deloitte's Center for the Edge and Orange Telecom labs in San Francisco, are looking at Freespace with an eye to bringing more creativity and innovation into their own businesses and work spaces.


Zuckerman thinks the experimental nature of Freespace appeals to business. He says it's interesting to corporate America because it's emergent and free and has "massively distributed creativity only because there is a container and a context," A design firm executive tells her corporate clients about Freespace to "get them excited about the idea of experiencing design in a space as a social experiment."



While Freespacers recognize their experiment is temporary, they are trying to extend it another month with an Indiegogo campaign to raise $25,000 to pay July's rent. Gentrification in San Francisco and elsewhere often means high paid tech workers displace other residents, and many fear that's a loss for the community. Freespacers hope many of the new projects will continue to improve neighborhoods and bolster the city's arts and creative spirit. They also hope Freespace will be replicated in other cities.


Remember PlexusCalls!

Friday, Jun 28, 2013 - 1-2 PM ET  
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Is Murder Contagious?   
Guests: April Zeoli and Caroline Nicholl
April Zeoli led team of researchers at Michigan State University that studied the 2,366 homicides in Newark N.J. between 1982 and 2008. In one of the first studies of its kind, the team used analytical software from the field of medical geography to track long term homicide trends. They found the killings followed a pattern similar to that of an infectious disease, evolving from the city's center and moving south and west over time in neighborhoods where most residents were poor and members of minority groups. Researchers also identified areas of Newark where there had been no clusters of homicide despite being surrounded by areas of deadly violence.
Caroline Nicholl started her consulting business focusing on leadership and organizational change  in 2002. In the late 1980s she helped shift London's police from a "force" to a "service," and for seven years she served as police chief for the city of Milton Keyes in the U.K.  She introduced interactive policing, which emphasizes community engagement and problem solving, and launched the first police-based restorative justice program in the country. 
Nursing Network PlexusCalls 
Wednesday July 10, 2013 - 1-2 PM ET  
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Guest: Debbie Gregory 

Friday, July 12, 2013 - 1-2 PM ET  
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Ecology of Leadership    
Guests: David K. Hurst and Felix Ankel 

In his book The New Ecology of Leadership: Business Mastery in a Chaotic World, David K. Hurst weaves together proven managerial concepts with insights from other fields-cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, history, and our natural environment. He argues that the human mind is rational in an ecological rather than logical sense. In other words, it takes cues to action from the situations in which it finds itself. As a result, contexts matter and reason, passion and power can be used to change organizations for good or ill. He integrates management thought and practice from a systems perspective. 
Dr. Felix Ankel is Director of the Emergency Medicine Residency at Regions Hospital, St. Paul, Minnesota and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Minnesota.



Visit the Plexus Institute Calendar for a detailed schedule of PlexusCalls, Healthcare PlexusCalls, Nursing Network PlexusCalls and other upcoming events from Plexus Institute and others.  


Audio from all PlexusCall series are available by searching the iTunes store for plexuscalls. Or, visit under Resources/Call Series. 


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