To transform the community, change the story: the Fab City Global Initiative

How cities are rethinking their future with local, emotionally intellgient discussions

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Case study abstract

Nowadays 55% of the world population lives in cities and, according to the World Bank, it is predicted that by 2054 this figure will rise to a staggering 70%, with the overall urban population expected to double. By then, 70% of us will live in urban areas.

This scenario presents the challenges and stress that come with rapid urbanization – such as accelerated demand for affordable housing, well-connected transport systems, basic services, jobs, resource and waste management, tackling urban inequalities – but it also presents an opportunity for the transformation of the system within our current paradigm. 

But for that to happen, a change is required in the mainstream narratives around what cities are, what life in them means, and how they are expected to operate. This chapter explores the power of stories to catalyze systemic transformations.

Key recommendations

Become clear about the change you are seeking, or at least the first step of it.
What story would you rather be living in? Most often people know what they don’t want, but don’t know what they do want. If people are treating each other transactionally, then perhaps the story you’d like to encourage is a stronger connectedness, and therefore a more resourced and resourceful community.


Identify a metaphor that would be helpful in moving to the new story.
Percolab chose the idea of “restaurant” because everyone knows what to expect. You will be greeted. You will sit together. You get a menu from which you can choose. People can choose different things from the menu. Your waiter is there to help you. People already understand the frame. It creates psychological safety.

There is more spaciousness in an experiment than in a fixed project. Look for the space to “try something.” As in the Leonard Cohen song: “There’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.” Find the crack to move into.

Help people enter the experiment with ease.
Little rituals – like receiving the menu – help people to enter the experiment more easily and also helps people remember the experience. They help us stay in service to a collective purpose, instead of falling into what is easy and comfortable for the individual.

Work as a team.
Transformation is complex and challenging work. As we have learned from the new sciences, it takes a field to host a field. If you want radical change to happen, first it must be embodied. As a team, practice what you hope to encourage in the world. A team has more capacity, resilience, and wisdom than an individual. Continue to strengthen team capacity and cohesion.

Don’t be tempted to control.
This is an experiment, a change in storyline. We don’t know who’s coming or what they need. Light structures make emergence possible. There will be a dance between chaos and order – that’s how nature works. Plan well, and then let the experi-ence unfold. Working with people who can host strong emergent space is very helpful.

Don’t underestimate the capacity of citizens/participants to enter complexity.
They are the experts in their own territory, space, and experience. If we listen to them, we can identify new tools to enter and work with complexity.

Read the in-depth case study

“To transform the community, change the story: the Fab City Global Initiative”

Inspiration, key principles, practical do’s and don’ts

In open acess thanks to the Porticus Foundation

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