Challenge everything: the Disruptive Innovation Festival
By BEL JACOBS
What if we could redesign everything? This is the question posited by the DIF, the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF), the world’s biggest online festival of ideas. Curated by the Ellen MacArthur, possibly the active organisation working to challenge waste today, the DIF invites people to share disruptive ideas and stories, with the aim of shifting mindsets and inspiring action towards a truly circular economy.
The festival attracts a worldwide audience, sparking critical conversations and participation through a combination of live interviews, films, and podcasts. Sessions featured at the DIF are often organised by external groups who showcase their latest thinking and activities. Universities, companies, entrepreneurs, thought-leaders and authors are all regular contributors to the DIF.
“The reason for the DIF was simple and intuitive,” says DIF’s founder and brains behind the original concept, Ken Webster (also Head of Innovation at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation). “[We tend] to work with key organisations, businesses and policy makers but there is a whole world of interest and innovation out there which touches on the economy, on design and digital.
“At the same time the idea of a festival seemed just right, a coming together for one short but intense event with lots of choices. And so the basic framework is there: a broad sharing of ideas, some structure but not too much and a sense of the possibility of finding out about new avenues, meeting people, taking a chance on the unknown or untried.”
This year sees the fifth incarnation of the DIF, as it has grown from slightly outrageous notion to a truly global platform where people share fresh ideas and innovations so desperately needed to address the world’s challenges..
From mobile drinking fountains to Saladorama, a social business that provides healthy and accessible food for Brazilian ‘favelas’; from revolutions in education (if we accept that human and natural systems tend to be interconnected, complex and dynamic, then educational programs made up of disparate parts can no longer be the norm) to the power of storytelling; from biomimicry in architecture and ocean waste to using blockchain to support India’s beleaguered farmers: the solutions are all here already.
Three key themes shape this year’s event. Cities in Transition considers cities as a focal point for discussion about economic prosperity, health, and environmental impact in the 21st century - and to much of the world’s cutting-edge innovation, acting as hubs for designing and testing out new business models and technology at scale. What will it take to make tomorrow’s cities everything they need to be?
Materials and Design looks at the redefinition of ‘good design’. Most of the materials we use, we lose and the things we make are consistently under-utilise and then thrown away. Instead, the goods of today should become tomorrow’s resources. This shift in thinking is worth around a trillion dollars and will drive innovation, reshaping every part of our lives.
Finally, People in the Economy engages with the debate that the way we currently determine ‘success’ has many blind spots and can leave a lot of people behind. We are sold the story that economic growth is good for us all but it’s also destroying the planet. As the economy continues to evolve, what type of economy do we want to live in? How can we ensure that people get access to the goods and services, materials and components they need to help them live and prosper - whilst protecting the environment.