“Later, I became the head of Interaction Design Studies at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, which was an amazing opportunity to share this vision with students. In parallel, I worked with tech companies and startups, and in all my projects I was always thinking about Christopher Alexander’s perspective, trying to make them more ethical and empathetic. When I met Colu, a Tel Aviv-based startup that creates a decentralized payment system for local communities, I was so blown away with their philosophy and focus on people that I realized there and then I wanted to be part of it.”
What is so special about Colu?
“Colu has this beautiful, almost ancient idea of transforming cities through the local currencies. In its current implementation, a local currency can’t be cashed out or exchanged by consumers, so it is spent on local independent businesses in the network – we target local independent businesses and avoid multinational chains. Since it always stays in the community and circulates in the city, people are encouraged to buy more in local shops and from local suppliers, and this has a strong effect on economic sustainability.”
“At the same time, we’re not trying to undermine the national currencies – Colu is a complementary tool that cities can use to solve their problems. For example, right now we’re working in partnership with 100 Resilient Cities (pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation) to adopt digital currencies in 2 global cities and help them achieve their sustainability and resilience goals. Ultimately, the idea is to allow people in these cities to get at least part of their salaries and pay some of their taxes with local money. This, in turn, lets the municipalities incentivize the residents to make healthier choices, like using public transportation or cycling.”
“What is special about Colu is the courage to change and do things in order to bring more value not only to the stakeholders, but to the entire ecosystem including people, the actual users. In my team, we go out to the street and interview people on a weekly basis – without any questionnaires, we just show them the app and ask what they see. And people actually say incredible, beautiful things! You wouldn’t believe it – everything we know, or think we know about people, turns out to be wrong. We expect them to be focused on their own interests and personal gain; instead, they are very empathetic and caring for each other and for the communal value. And that’s what Colu is all about – reclaiming this value.”
What new urban professions and skills will be essential in the future?
“It’s hard to say, of course, as modern culture changes so fast – but there are some things that will be crucial for the future Urban Experience Designers: The ability to look and listen deeply. To be alert, attentive and empathetic towards the citizens, and playful towards the practice. The ability to make a stand. I believe (or hope) that in the future, no designers will consider themselves mere service providers or stick to the plain aesthetic aspects of the profession, without considering the behavioral implications of their works on society over time. The ability to be poetic, artistic and soulful. This generation’s main technological effort is to automate and templatize everything — including design. But it’s wrong to think we can templatize art — the writing of Franz Kafka, the art of Andy Goldsworthy, or the music of Otis Redding can’t be automated. Culture will need designers and planners that can outgrow this trend.”