: Charles Armstrong, Custodian :

Over the past few months I’ve been sounding out various people about what the most useful focus for CIRCUS would be in this next stage of its life. It needed to be something to do with the relationship between technology and social change, since that’s part of its DNA. Also it had to be something practically focused, concerned with a big issue and different from what others were pursuing. Beyond that I had a completely open mind.

When I asked people about this I got a lot of different answers. However several people observed that whilst there’s a reasonable consensus about the way we need to be living in twenty years’ time (less energy usage, less greenhouse gas emission, more local patterns of consumption, etc), there’s very little clarity about how we get from here to there. That appealed to me enormously as a mission. It’s hard to imagine a more important question to confront. The Bridges to the Post Industrial Planet project was designed as a way to gather ideas for exploration.

In July I was at Tim O’Reilly’s Foo Camp in Sebastopol so I took the opportunity to ask a variety of technology luminaries their thoughts about what most difficult transitions were likely to be and how we could overcome them. One of the people I spoke to, the investor and thinker Joi Ito, highlighted the role of decision-making systems. A long conversation about the potential for Emergent Democracy ensued. This is a long-standing interest of mine. Indeed I wrote a couple experimental constitutions on these principles back in 2000 when I was with Michael Young. This seemed like a useful and narrower focus, hence was born the Themis project.

Meanwhile I’d met Ed Murfitt whilst serving as a mentor at Social Innovation Camp and discovered we had a lot in common in our outlook. In July Ed became a Fellow of the foundation and is currently in California pursuing his Mass Collaboration in Design project with Menka Parekh.

None of these things are definitive answers to what the foundation should do or how it should work, but it is fitting that instead of pondering the question until the answer is clear, we are going out and doing something.