Cosmopolitan Localism

Cosmopolitan Localism: The Planetary Networking of Everyday Life in Place 

How do we envision sustainable long-term futures? And how do we guide actions to realize these visions? Kossoff proposes that the nascent concept of cosmopolitan localism needs further development. Globalization is at the root of many “wicked” problems, but to only turn to localism is simplistic. While many theorists suggest a future place-based lifestyle, we also need to consider the advantages of being networked at multiple scales, from households to neighbourhoods, cities, regions and the planet.  Cosmopolitan localism, Kossoff suggests, should advocate for self-organization at the local level but should also try to be networked. By developing and engaging in a local network we build local resilience, which facilitates reinhabitation. A networked society is a prerequisite. SLOC communities (Small Local Open Connected communities proposed by Ezio Manzini in the 2010s) share knowledge and resources. SLOC communities develop self-managed economies “wherein manufacturing and agricultural production would be largely for local consumption” (58). Communities are nodes rather than centers of production separated by great distances. Everyday needs should be satisfied by local communities and be tailored toward specific cultures and ecosystems. Individual actions can support local networks, e.g., eating at a local restaurant that gets their produce from a local farmer, who employs local workers. Engaging with the local network creates a decentralized and non-hierarchical organized system resulting in social, economic, and political power that is distributed.

Kossoff, Gideon. 2019. “Cosmopolitan Localism: The Planetary Networking of Everyday Life in Place.” Cuadernos Del Centro de Estudios de Diseño y Comunicación, no. 73: 51-66.

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Transition Design: Design-led Societal Transition Toward a More Sustainable Future

Transition design theorists Terry Irwin, Gideon Kossoff and Cameron Tonkinwise present an exploration of their new theory of transition design at the 2013 AIGA Design Conference. Their talk covers the basic principles of the theory, a discussion of “cosmopolitan localism” as a desirable model for a sustainable culture, and the role of designers in leading society through a transition to this “sustainable everyday life” through planning processes that consist of a series of “situated actions” rather that rigid plans. They discuss the need for teams of interdisciplinary experts to collaborate with grassroots, “place-based” communities and argue for nonhierarchical relationships between communities, regions, governments, and global networks. They envision a future where respect for ecosystems is built into society and where exploitative labour is a thing of the past. They propose models of design thinking that they suggest can help achieve these goals.

AIGAdesign. 2013. Terry Irwin, Gideon Kossoff & Cameron Tonkinwise. Video. Head, Heart, Hand: AIGA Design Conference.

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Part 1: Social Innovation and Design in Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation

The first part of this three-part book describes strategies for organizing society that encourage resilience, complexity, distributed agency, and collaboration. It imagines “cosmopolitan localism” as a society built around social innovation that draws sustainably on "global networks and local realities" (25). According to Manzini’s new forms of design must emerge to meet the needs of this evolving society and help bring it into being. He encourages new forms of design thinking that transcend common polarities, like the traditional distinctions between the producers and users of products. He describes new design methods as integrating grassroots and expert knowledge. This is a book of “research on design” that analyzes the capacities and potential of design to be the discipline that can best help engineer a new more resilient future (39).
Manzini, Ezio. 2015. “Part 1: Social innovation and design.” In Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation. 7-74. MIT Press.

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