Being my father’s daughter, his love and knowledge of U.S. labour history made its way deep into the creases of my brain. So I am acutely aware of the events that stand out and acted as turning points in the long and continued struggle for better wages, conditions, and treatment of workers. One such example, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, took place in New York City on March 25, 1911, killing 146 women, most of whom were new immigrants and between the ages of 16 and 23. This tragedy prompted new legislation that would help to ensure better safety for sweatshop workers and a shift in what employers could demand of their employees. With this in mind, reading a recent Business Week article, it is hard to understand that the same preventable tragedies still take place, all too often.
“Apparel sold by Spain’s Inditex, the world’s largest apparel company and a pioneer of faster fashion cycles, was found at a factory that caught fire on Jan. 26, killing at least seven people. More than 100 were killed on Nov. 24 at another Bangladeshi plant producing garments for companies including Sears Holdings (SHLD) and Wal-Mart Stores (WMT).”
Forward 102 years later, to a different part of the world but to all too familiar circumstances. The high demand for garments still put women in danger of factory fires and other risks of injury and death. The article discusses the perils associated with ‘fast fashion’. The two-week cycle of clothing lines, which helped to make retailers like H&M and Zara global titans of cheap fashion, is directly linked to increased incidents of death for the workers that make this fast production possible.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire helped to change how workers were treated in the 20th century in the U.S. What is powerful enough to change this pattern in Bangladesh and other parts of the world where sweatshops still go unregulated and workers still die in the name of the cheapest, trendiest fashion?
One of my favourite things I brought back from my time living in Chicago is an orange 1970’s Schwinn Continental 10 speed. It is from a time when Schwinn’s were still manufactured in Chicago, in fact only a stone’s throw from the Logan Square apartment basement where I found it. So it makes me particularly excited to read about the return of bike production to the Midwestern U.S.
Shinola with its slogan, “Where American is made,” is currently producing bicycles and watches in its Detroit factory, a building that once housed GM. It is also planning to roll out a line of leather products and notebooks. This company finds good company as part of a growing trend of manufacturers committed to American production, good design and building a compelling brand.
“We won’t go so far as to say that the startup will singlehandedly revitalize the manufacturing culture of the Upper Midwest region, but Shinola is making a bold statement with its winning combination of in-house savoir-faire, carefully curated local producers and nicely executed video documentation of all of the above. “
Trendwatching.com announced its “10 Trends for 2013.” Number two on the list is the growing number of emerging market companies looking to gain customers in other emerging economies.
“While the last two decades were about developed markets catering to emerging ones, and emerging markets increasingly catering to developed ones; now get ready for an explosion in products and services from emerging markets for emerging markets.”
One of the examples cited is China’s second largest smartphone maker, Lenovo, which started selling a range of smartphones in Indonesia in October. It plans to roll out a smartphone for the Indian market in March of 2013.
In this month’s issue, Inc. magazine discusses the new book, Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, and the importance of ideas ‘trickling up’ from the emerging market. The authors offer examples of companies that have developed innovative products and services for developing economies and then introduced these ideas to developed markets with great success. The book is a call to action for companies to look outside of their traditional markets and to learn and adapt to the needs of the emerging market – a hugely, untapped space that is brimming with ideas and opportunities for growth. Co-author of Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Vijay Govindarajan had this to say about obstacles facing developed-world business leaders and their ability to recognize this potential:
“The biggest obstacle is the mindset. In the developed world, we have been so successful for so long catering to a very sophisticated customer, supplying premium products with high margins. That dominant logic does not work in poor countries. It is a fundamentally different customer set with fundamentally different problems. Sometimes, countries can become insular when they are so successful. For American entrepreneurs to tap into this opportunity, they have to be curious about the problems of people in poor countries. This curiosity—if you can acquire it, then you can succeed.”
The widespread use of cellphones across the African continent over the last ten years has shown the value of airtime. Airtime is safer than carrying cash, it doesn’t need to be kept in a bank or under the mattress, and its value doesn’t fluctuate as does paper currency. A new business in Zimbabwe, takes this devolution of currency, as we know it, one step further, replacing it altogether.
“Aiming to provide a new solution to the lack of currency in Zimbabwe, local startup Yo Time offers an internet platform that allows retailers to give change in the form of mobile airtime instead.”
TrickleUp Design likes to think of design as a tool for creating meaningful change in the world – influencing economies, policies and behaviours. But we also see the value of design to delight and enter into one’s life in small, quiet ways. We like finding examples of these “small acts of design” and sharing them on this blog.
A favourite example is found on a quiet street in the Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto. The Little Free Library is a bird house-like lending library placed at the edge of its homeowners’ property and is open to any passer-by looking to give or take a book. No cash or library card needed. This simple act is a fantastic example of systems design in action. This open source, barter-based activity falls outside of a large, organized system but creates its own small, self-sustaining ecosystem, offering a useful service and delighting its users.
The success of the Design + Occupy event has spurred us to organize and host a follow-up event called, Design + Love. You are invited to attend and be part of the conversation that you helped to start. It is taking place Thursday, February 16th at the CSI Annex from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Please pass along this event information. We’re hoping for another great audience. Design + Love Designing the Love Economy
One of the resounding messages that has emerged from across the political and economic spectrum — from the Occupy movement to recent labour unrest to conversations happening around the kitchen tables across North America and beyond — is the desire and need for an economic system that puts the values of people above profits and where human connection and relationships transcend personal gain.
Join us for the second in a series of panel discussions, hosted by The CSI Design Common, that examines current issues through the lens of design and uses design thinking to find actionable solutions.
Date: Thursday, February 16th Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Where: Centre for Social Innovation Annex, 720 Bathurst St, Suite 404 (4th Floor, Toronto For more info and to RSVP: designRSVP@socialinnovation.ca
“A Love Economy values the work of production, reproduction, and caring for human life alongside the natural world as the foundation on which the rest of the economy functions.”– UNPAC, Women & The Economy
Be part of the discussion and solution alongside three guest speakers, who are helping to define and create this emergent Love Economy:
Velcrow Ripper (joining us from Brooklyn, NY, via Skype) is an established Toronto filmmaker (Scared Sacred, Fierce Light) who will be launching his newest film, OCCUPY LOVE, this year. “Ripper has been filming at Occupy Wall Street since day one. He has discovered a revolution rooted in compassion, direct democracy, and shared power, as opposed to the “power over” model of the current western world view.” From what he has observed, “Love is the movement” (http://occupylove.org). Get a sneak peek of clips from his upcoming film.
Arianne Shaffer is the curator, writer and collector for her project entitled Love Letters to a Friend. “For the past two years Arianne has been collecting love letters of all formats in varying mediums from friends and strangers.Through these intimacies it is clear that our world is in need of continual expressions of love and that those expressions are longing to be heard. Her project aims at opening the door for catharsis and encourages people to write, let go, and bring in the various forms of love available to us” (http://loveletterstoafriend.com). Listen to excerpts from some of these moving letters.
Michael Sacco is the founder and director of Chocosol, “a community of innovative and dynamic individuals engaged in a trans-local trading relationship that goes beyond mere commerce to intercultural dialogue and reciprocal relationship building.” He “has been making natural, organic, and horizontally traded chocolate and drinking cocoa since 2007.” His scholarly research and hands-on work with chocolate allows him to discuss the intrinsic value of chocolate from a cultural, historical and economic perspective (http://chocosol.posterous.com). Sample Chocosol’s deliciously ethical chocolate.
Now Magazine discusses the Design + Occupy panel discussion:
“Margaret Kohn, a U of T political scientist and author of Brave New Neighborhoods: The Privatization of Public Space said she was appalled by Judge Brown’s core argument (which set the stage for Occupy’s eviction), that the camp represented the privatization of space and the absconding of the property of others.
‘Brown is wrong; his analysis rests on a misconception,’ she said.
In conventional terms, she pointed out, public spaces are thought to be zones controlled by governments representing tax payers. But there’s another way of seeing the relationship of citizens to their spaces.
Here she borrowed from Machiavelli: ‘the people have a structural interest in liberty’’, and the elite don’t, since their happiness dervives from the disadvantages of those under them. When people gather together in one collectivity, she said, again following the big M., they have a special power that needs to be defended. Society has ‘to have this extra-legal mechanism for [ensuring] liberty; through that understanding of the public, freedom is protected,’ she said.”
In his article, “4 Reasons Why The Future Of Capitalism Is Homegrown, Small Scale, And Independent,” Bruce Nussbaum describes the maker culture and its resulting businesses popping up in places like Brooklyn, Chicago and Toronto. These makers may be working at a small scale but pack a powerful punch in terms of the impact they have on the local economy and beyond. Filling once vacant industrial buildings and valuing quality over quantity, this new generation of makers offer their customers a glimpse into the skill and labour embedded in the products they make – a kind of accessibility and transparency lost in an age of Dollar Stores and Walmarts. In general, these indie capitalists honour craft and tradition while at the same time embrace technology, particularly the use of social media to engage with their audiences. Overall, they offer the yin to the yang of globally outsourced production and indicate an important shift in value and future production opportunities in developed economies.
“You won’t learn about it in business school, hear about it from Wall Street, or see it in Palo Alto. But if you spend time in Bushwick, Brooklyn, or on Rivington Street in Manhattan, you just might detect the outlines of an emerging “indie” capitalism.
Indie capitalism could be the kind of reinvigorated capitalism that we can all believe in again. To make it really work, we might need a new indie economics (of creativity and innovation), plus a new indie set of political policies.”