In early May 2020, at the very end of the lockdown in London, David and I, together with friends from Extinction Rebellion, organized a fun visual assembly – together we invented the City of Utopia.

Our friends – about 20 people met at the zoom, and we armed ourselves with pre-cooked stencils and chalk sprays, together with our friend Olei Babi (as well as friendly passers-by who joined us) in the heart of Portabello Road, in the middle of the market square, followed the instructions of the commission meeting at the ZOOM chat.

We began with a speech by archaeologist David Wengrow, who spoke about the egalitarian cities of the past – Tripolye and Tlaxcalan.

And our newly created city, where everything is run by children, where trees are elected representatives, (where the parliament consists of trees), where it is impossible to cook food only for yourself, but you can cook for others and eat what your neighbors have cooked, a citizen can become anyone who is able to pass the maze, as it proves that the future citizen has a creative imagination.

We think it went magnificently, considering it was kind of step one. The idea was to show people the approach is fun and to give people an experience of opening up imagination – in a way it’s like popcorn, the consensus brainstorming tool, where no one can be criticised for any idea no matter what it is, then you record it all, then try to see what you can do with it.

Step 2 would be seeing what we can do with it – to turn the exercise into a practical one; ie., so you start off with pure imagination, and then, say, okay, Homerton. Let’s reimagine Homerton. Or Newcastle. Etc. So ideally you turn the imagination you’ve just unleashed onto something that has immediate effects on lives. Problem is that in practice this would be way more complicated because require a decision-making process, strong facilitation…

One thing I was thinking is maybe now that we’ve shown off the approach to a lot of people with experience in horizontal decision-making, we could draw on that experience for ideas on how we’d actually go about that.

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