Phil Pauley Blog

Friday, 13 April 2012

The next Harry Potter blockbuster - Reality Park set to rival Theme Parks

With the official opening of the new Harry Potter Theme Park here in the UK earlier in the month, we at PAULEY started thinking about how an estimated $15 billion revenue stream generated by the Harry Potter brand might work harder within a different social context.

With seven books, eight films, computer games, mass merchandise and two new theme parks with worldwide appeal, the success of the Harry Potter brand has set new records at every turn. Huge media hype was followed by massive audience expectation that delivered ritual participation centred around each of the new adventures. The story was, literally and figuratively, pure magic.

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Just as many famous publishers turned down the first Harry Potter book before it became a hit, nobody thought the Eden Project in Cornwall would be either financially viable or architecturally possible. However, the project has attracted global acclaim for its environmental work and provided a huge boost to the local economy by driving thousands of visitors to the site each year with its unique approach to design and entertainment.

The main aim of any engagement with visitors is to get you to buy into a brand by visiting the site or production and then up-selling merchandise based on the theme. It’s certainly true with the Harry Potter theme parks but it’s also the case with Eden. It’s an educational charity and social enterprise where profits from the on-site shop run community and environmental projects.

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The success of the Eden Project is a national triumph. It has raised millions through lottery money (and some controversial corporate partnerships). It begs the question, what if there was a new breed of multi-platform entertainment engagements? Projects with the inspiring social and environmental goals of the Eden Project combined with the mass appeal of Harry Potter; the books, the games, the films, the TV series, the merchandising, the shop, the membership benefits, the global network and the theme park?

Over the last six months we’ve blogged about global conditions in which population explosions, increasingly extreme weather and food shortages are adding to the noise of social unrest. However, we strongly believe that the key to solving these problems and meeting the challenges of the future is not simply to throw money and resources at them – as is so often the kneejerk reaction from politicians, the media and sections of the public. As with so many problems, the solution lies in creative and innovative thinking; a willingness to challenge the way things are and see new opportunities for the way things could be.

Perhaps too many people fail to recognise that the money and resources to solve global challenges of food shortages and social unrest already exist? Money alone will not produce the desired improvements. Without being used and distributed equitably, money will do what it always has; divide, rule and create inequality and jealousy within society. What’s needed is a shift in thinking so that money becomes an enabler of positive change rather than a change in itself.

As the Eden Project reality park proves, socially responsible ventures can succeed. The business models and mechanisms to promote positive and profitable change and tackle global challenges are all around us. In today’s inter-connected world, social businesses have a great opportunity to move onto the next level of success through increased popularity, support and visibility. Combining them with the mass appeal of Harry Potter-style franchises would create a real force for good. All we need is the vision and storytelling skills to capture people’s imagination and point them in the right direction.

By engaging people with an inspiring story and message, customers become more than simply consumers of a particular entertainment product; they evolve into stakeholders in an entertainment brand with a personal interest in that franchise’s success. That’s a powerful way of increasing involvement and revenue streams in the name of a good cause.

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We urgently need the power of the franchised entertainment industry to improve the way we interact with the planet. Few other industries can mobilise such numbers and inspire people across so many delivery channels, from books and films to merchandise sales and theme parks.

Businesses and management academics are gradually waking up to the benefits of social responsibility. Is it time that the entertainment industry and media readdresses how its power to create thrilling stories, inspire people from all backgrounds, and turn these stories into commercial reality, can be used to achieve the urgent social and environmental objectives that face us all? Or should the remit of the entertainment industry and media always remain unbiased and unrestricted in the interests of press freedom?

If we could combine the mass appeal of Harry Potter with the social conscience of the Eden Project, we’d have an unstoppable engine for progress. We’ll introduce our ideas on the subject in our next blog. Until then the question is, would this kind of deliberate social agenda for the entertainment industry be a beneficial step or a malevolent kind of propaganda with the potential to stifle established models of economic development?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Cities of the Future; Beautiful urban metropolis or overcrowded and poverty stricken?

According to latest predictions by the UN, by 2050, two-thirds of the world population will live in cities. By then, the world’s population will have risen by 30% to 9 billion. India and China’s already colossal populations will be joined by an explosion of child bearing throughout sub-saharan Africa and a rush to join already large cities like Lagos.

Between 2015 and 2050 the population of the African continent will double to 2.2 billion and the majority of these people will be heading to the city in a bid to find work and a better life. However, this will be dwarfed by Asia, which will account for nearly 60% of the world’s population with 5.2 billion inhabitants - mostly living in cities.

In our quest for togetherness and belonging, what were once hives of activity will become gargantuan swamps of humanity drowning under the weight of mouths to feed and the impossible complexity of co-ordinating millions of people’s daily routines around a manageable system of infrastructure. The rich in cities will get richer and the poor will become both more numerous and, tragically, even poorer still.

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If you don’t like the crowds, the congestion, the overloaded infrastructure and the claustrophobic sense of powerlessness among your tens of millions of fellow city-dwellers, the future prospects for city life may not be any better.

China recently announced that it is planning to create a mega-city by merging nine existing conurbations to create a metropolis with an area twice the size of Wales and a population of 42 million. Thats a lot of jobs to find!

Once upon a time following the Industrial Revolution, cities offered the only hubs of information, inter-connectedness and employment and people flocked to them in search of a better life and the promise of streets lined with gold. What they tended to find were streets lined with animal dung and no way home.

Today, the information revolution means we don’t have to cram ourselves into shoe-box accommodation for a chance to interact with the world. The internet can bring the world to us. Interestingly, people’s living preferences have yet to change in accordance with the times.

Visions of how we can live in more sustainable, harmonious and less demoralising ways – combining the benefits of city life with those of a rural existence - are out there: The book Futuristic (Visions of Future Living) by Daab Media features ideas for cities that will offer exactly this balance.

Here at PAULEY we were honoured to have our Sub-Biosphere 2 concept for an underwater city included alongside designs for the Virgin Galactic Spaceport by renowned architect Norman Foster and The Urban Forest Design by the Beijing based Architects MAD.

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I really hope that these types of designs begin to get serious consideration as solutions for the now, rather than pipe-dreams for the future. The capabilities to turn these ideas into reality already exist if planners and investors are prepared to take brave decision on how we build our cities.

Already, many existing cities offer isolation, anonymity, exclusion and a dehumanising sense of insignificance. Trends for city and population growth predicted by the United States Census Bureau suggest the problem will only get worse without a more innovative approach to city infrastructure and integrated architecture.

Man lost his connection to the natural world – the world of changing seasons, natural cycles and sustainable living combined with a tangible appreciation and respect for the beauty of nature – when industry began to take over the world, People-kind sacrificed nature before capitalism.

I write this not out of pessimism but with a sense of hope that better solutions can be found. Simply increasing the scale of cities using existing models of urban planning may not be truly fit for purpose without radical innovation.

Governments promote investments in transport, infrastructure, housing, education, health-care and agriculture individually as solutions to the challenges facing cities but the problems go beyond that. Integrated architecture for businesses with smart transportation systems, housing, schooling, walk-in centres, leisure facilities and urban farms all under one roof - Architectural Social Superstores - perhaps thats the future?

Services and infrastructure need to be provided to city-dwellers but so to does a sense of meaning; a deeper sense of belonging and a reinforcement of our own humanity that cannot get lost among the crowds.

Ecobuild website

There are some encouraging signs. The Arab Future Cities Summit in Qatar is one of the first forums with a deliberate focus on the need for social innovations to tackle the challenges that we as humans will have to face living shoulder-to-shoulder with each other. The Bombardier YouCity contest is also focussed on squaring up to the problems posed by city life while this week’s Eco-Build exhibition in London will showcase the latest sustainable city solutions aiming for commercial up-take.

To make cities of the future great places to live, investment in the bricks and mortar of URBANISM is absolutely necessary but more than ever, we need to find new ways of giving them, and us, a way to reconnect with our souls.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

"Tomorrow's World.... Today's Challenge."

Spiralling resource costs, flooding, civil unrest, threats to biodiversity, rises in environmental refugees and even all-out war – the implications of our unsustainable lifestyles are grim to say the least.

These are just some of the effects we are almost certain to experience over the next five to 20 years as the consequences of our environmental looting catch up with us.

Even today, the effects are showing themselves. Save the Children published results of a survey today, showing one-third of parents in countries including India, Nigeria and Bangladesh, don’t have enough food to provide for their children. One in six said their children were forced to skip school to work for food.

The current state of the planet is one that cannot go on!

I believe business can and must play a central role in reversing this situation and driving environmental and social change. Not just because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do but because it’s more profitable too.

Protecting the environment is at the heart of sustainable business. The resources that every business relies on come, ultimately, from the natural world.

That’s why making sure the value your business creates is sustainable in terms of the environment and its people is common sense. Whether your business suffers in one year because you don’t operate sustainably or in 10, the problems will happen.

Recognising the need for sustainable employment practices – after years of pressure and adverse publicity – Apple this week asked for the Fair Labour Association to inspect its supplier Foxconn in China where most of its products are made.

Pursuing profit at all costs is a destructive strategy that ultimately prevents you enjoying the fruits of your labour. It’s something that more and more business people are recognising and companies like Puma and Kingfisher – which operates the B&Q brand of DIY stores – are playing a leading role in driving a change towards sustainable thinking thanks to visionary bosses like Ian Cheshire.

David Brown - Rotary International:

Business can become the engine of sustainability within society if companies realise the substantial benefits of acting in a more responsible fashion – that was the message from the Tomorrow’s World . . . Today’s Challenge seminar hosted by ourselves here at design and innovation firm PAULEY.

With delegates from management consulting firm Capgemini, architecture specialists Eco Design Consultants and Rotary International, the event explored the consequences of failing to embrace sustainability both at an environmental and business level.

Through a series of talks and practical exercises, the event uncovered practical ways businesses can proactively support sustainability.

The event, sponsored by engineering consultancy Atkins Global, was the result of collaboration between us and Phil Williams from Plan-It Eco.

The event looked at the need for businesses to be more pro-active and innovative in their approach to sustainability. What it revealed was the multiple benefits there are in doing this.

Acting sustainably is not a burden but an incredible opportunity to improve efficiency, engage and inspire staff, and ensure that profits are maximised in the medium- and long-term.

Take our recent work with Eurostar for example. We created an e-training system for repair and maintenance staff to learn and test their mechanical and electrical skills.

The company was able to save tens of thousands of pounds on traditional one-to-one training that involves bringing an entire train up to the central repair depot.

By using interactive, innovation-led design tools companies like Eurostar can enjoy logistics and time savings with a training system that is enjoyable and less resource intensive. In other words, you can get the job done without the environmental, time and financial impact of shifting an enormous train around.

The sustainability event was the first in a series of events at The Farm Sustainability Centre – our dedicated educational centre set in the rural outskirts of Milton Keynes.

The event reminded me that environmental responsibility and profit don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Today, it’s more possible than ever that we can enjoy the benefits of both.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Powering Sustainable Innovation - The Cat and Mouse in a Flooding House

It's ironic and symbolic of our times that an area of the world now appallingly wealthy thanks to being stocked to the eyeballs with oil is now under threat from the unsustainable impact of its trade in the black gold.
A rise in sea levels of 1m will put 1,155km squared of Abu Dhabi's coastline underwater. According to an Abu Dhabi government report on global warming, precisely such an event is "not unlikely" to happen by 2050 they say. So the UAE really does have good reason to champion renewable technology.
The impact of climate change made for a concerned mood at the 2012 World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. The event was hosted by some of the world's largest oil and gas companies. On the surface, it was a showcase for emerging renewable energy technologies, with a heavy focus on glass solar photovoltaic panels and wind.

The tone and opening presentation championed innovation like a demi-god bearing the keys to the gates of paradise. Innovation was the key driver to defeat climate change; the last great hope to avert an energy crises; the tool to encourage environmental responsibility and the only way to create a sustainable future of prosperity fuelled by renewable energy.
Innovation, innovation, innovation was the mantra at the top of the list for the swathes of Heads of State, key industry spokesmen and comperes: "Our world has always been driven by innovation and powered by imagination." Arguably true but it belied the short-term, profit-driven decision making that still dominates our planets energy sector.
We were invited to join the UK trade delegation at the Summit. Despite the sloganeering and idealistic talk, we were the only specialist innovation-focussed company exhibiting. We showcased our 2011/12 innovation incubator projects and focussed on our Marine Solar Cell technology as a lead to generate potential partnerships and thankfully we had overwhelming support from individuals on every stand we talked to.
Away from the public facing presentations, corporate financier complained about the practicalities of solar and wind power, the inefficiencies, the difficulties and the less favourable economics. Now is not the time to be investing in anything, let alone renewables or new innovation in energy.
Our Marine Solar Cells (MSC) were created precisely to tackle these challenges posed by the energy sector. MSCs are a hybrid solar and wave energy system with the unprecedented ability to establish photovoltaic power generation at sea. With interest from Masdar, Siemens, GE and MIT(EI) to name only a few, we are confident that we can deliver the first off-shore solar farm in the world. Fingers crossed post Summit.
Marine Solar Cells
The thinking behind the MSC design stems from the cost and availability of land as a significant hurdle in the installation of large-scale solar power facilities globally. Energy generated at sea could be channelled back to land through either underwater cables or through a network of "battery" shipping tankers. Alternatively, it could be used to supply power for off-shore construction projects, such as wind farms and tidal energy projects.
The economics of driving a new world energy economy aren't straightforward and one might think we have more pressing concerns at hand. On the other hand, shouldn't we all have a say in what we spend public profit on from natural resource extraction other than supporting a arthritic capitalist system?
Adu Dhabi's rags-to-riches story is a modern day fairy tale. However, it may not have a happy ending. This 40-year-old coastal state is built almost entirely on ground no more than three to four feet above sea level. If sea levels do rise, the UAE will be one of the first to disappear underwater.
Marine Solar Cells
Seemingly, we have passed the point of no return. We have to keep pumping natural resources to fuel construction of flood defences. We use air-con to stop the effects of global warming, all the while making the underlying problem worse. Take the proposed new London airport for example; built by profiteering from nature and designed to stop flooding caused by global warming reaching past the Thames Estuary.
Profits from natural resources will continue to be funnelled into infrastructure, especially NOW flood defences while only a small amount will pay lip service to renewable energy and new energy innovation. Most of these new technologies will be criticised for not performing as well as conventional energy sources however much demand or calling there is for them.
Profits from non-renewable sources will be plundered and spent on repairing damage caused to communities as a result of their use. However, rather than complaining about short-term difficulties, the smart money still flows into innovative renewable projects. It may be slow but it's the only long term option - especially if we want sustainable solutions that don't come back to haunt us when the tides come rolling in.