Charles Leadbeater


Charles Leadbeater is an influential expert on innovation and creativity. He has advised companies, cities and governments around the world on innovation strategy and draws from that experience in his latest book We-think: the power of mass creativity, which charts the rise of mass participative approaches to innovation from science and open source software, to computer games and political campaigning.

In relation to social innovation, Leadbeater argued in 2010 that there are four main ways in which we organise most social activities or address social change: For, With, By, and To. “For” solutions are delivered to us. “With” solutions are devised cooperatively with others. “By” solutions depend on self-motivation and DIY. “To” solutions depend on instruction, command and coercion to get things done.
It was in fact Charles Leadbeater who inspired the name of The Beach, the Amsterdam-based network organisation that is behind the Open Book for Sustainist Design project. As he puts it in his essay The Beach Ethic (As part of the larger publication (Un)common Ground: Creative Encounters across Sectors and Disciplines, 2007): "Beaches are ordered without being controlled. No one is in charge. Beaches are model civic spaces: tolerant, playful, self-regulating, democratic in spirit, mildly carnivalesque. Underlying the beach’s appeal is a simple idea: the beach is a commons where people can self-organise in play (...) There are no zoning regulations, fences nor white lines to tell you where to go".
Furthermore Leadbeater is keen on sharing, which is something we applaud and one of the key qualities in the Sustainism project. The first chapter of his book We-think was titled “You are what you share” and pinpoints the balance between participation, (peer) recognition, and collaboration. Interestingly, the very chapter title came about as a result of sharing: Leadbeater borrowed the line from Michiel Schwarz and traces it back to a conversation he had in Amsterdam that also included The Beach’s Diana Krabbendam.

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