It started with a little café offering some gluten-free muffins over a rugged wooden counter, a few utilitarian tables set against a white brick wall, and a laidback bearded barista. Next came a throwback homeware shop selling enamel mugs, extra-long candles, and some wooden brooms; a Japanese inspired boutique selling all things black; an over-the-top eyewear micro-shop; and a couple of designer pop-ups. Overtime, a fresh pasta deli opened just across the road, followed by another bistro adhering to the ‘rustic meets industrial’ vibe. The old bookstore, convenience shop, drycleaners, and local pub also seemed to enjoy the new attention…


The short-horned grasshopper tends to be a harmless, gentle and rather introverted creature. Laying low in grassy meadows, it spends its days leisurely chewing on plants and stridulating familiar tunes by rubbing its legs together. Yet when these mellow creatures reach a certain point of geographical density, things begin to get interesting. Something about mingling with too many of their own kind, sets off waves of serotonin through their little bodies. The ensuing chemical reaction seem to trigger an “Incredible Hulk” — like transformation, turning these laid-back grasshoppers into big, strong, hungry, and dangerously mobile locusts.

Interestingly, this transformation is…


Stratford London — image by HipKat (shutterstck)

Along what used to be derelict warehouses and muddy waterways, runs the renovated Regents Canal, a popular destination for Londoners, especially on lazy weekends. Local councils have put much work into cleaning up the nine-mile towpath, with new waterfront apartments and trendy little cafes mushrooming along the route. Yet such urban regeneration also comes at a price, literally. Notwithstanding some fluctuations, the last two decades have seen house prices soar, making London continuously unaffordable to many of its admirers.

Of course, gentrification and rising house prices are not unique to London, but part of a pattern that seems to repeat…


We know inequality is bad, but what kind of problem is it? Is it a problem of wealth distribution? Is it a problem of moral justice? Is it the threat of political instability? A breakdown of social cohesion? Or part of the liberal world order woes? While obviously concerning all the above, it is wrong to go back to 20th Century economic debates of markets vs states, or growth vs distribution. Perhaps a better way to explore social inclusion and therefore the role of government, is to take an ecological networked view.


In my recent ‘Politics of Development’ lecture, my students and I analysed the uplifting case of the Barefoot College. This inspiring initiative set up by the Indian social activist Bunker Roy, is best known for its ‘Barefoot Solar Engineer’ programme. Bringing together rural illiterate women from all over the world, mostly grandmothers, it uses colour coding and sign language to teach them how to build and service solar panels.

At first glance this sounds like a straight forward development project focusing on sustainability and women empowerment. However, a closer look reveals how both the choices of investing in solar energy…


Sitting in a bustling neighbourhood sidewalk café with a couple of old friends, I order the breakfast combo delight. Tel-Avivian breakfasts are famous for their combination of lovely little tapas assortments of salads and cheeses, served with eggs, and steaming breads fresh out of the oven. Unfortunately my spread is slightly disappointing. Not that it’s particularly bad, just not the gastronomical treat I’ve missed so much living in London for so many years. In true Israeli fashion, my friends who notice my lack of enthusiasm, tell a passing waitress that my breakfast is “absolutely awful”. Embarrassed, I try telling her…


Wikimedia Commons

Throughout history, strategy tended to focus on the ultimate ‘rival’ — a worthy opponent who could be meticulously assessed for its wants, needs, resources, and abilities — Athens had Sparta, China’s seven warring states had each other, the USA had the USSR, and Holmes had Moriarty. Yet today’s rivals seem to take on a very different form, one of complex networks and patterns rather than nostalgic “baddies”.

Take for example a recent string of articles depicting a faceoff between Vogue Magazine and a vibrant fashion blogosphere. One can only assume that the sleepless nights of Anna Wintour, Vogue USA’s legendary…

Orit Gal

Founder @ Urbaniser and Senior Lecturer for Strategy and Complexity @ RUL;

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