What Does The World Need Now? The Feast 2012

The Feast Conference in New York City is happening live October 3rd through October 5th, with a Pavilion celebration the 5th and 6th. I’m here in the city that never sleeps with hundreds of other change-makers and many of the smartest scientists, data engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. I’ll be in New York City for the rest of this week looking at the ideas presented from a landscape, design and city-based perspective. To follow along on the lineup of incredible speakers (the conference is global with its epicenter in New York City), check out the Feast’s Livestream or Tumblr.

What does the world need now?

“We’re done waiting for the world to change,” the 2012 Feast Conference proclaims. Bringing together global leaders and change-makers across health, technology, science, open design, cities, poverty and wellness centered around social innovation, Feast On Good is a two-and-a-half day event, pavilion and hackathon centered in New York City.

To kick-off the conference, the rapid-fire full day lineup of speakers featured six challenges that need immediate and intelligent focus. It’s not enough to identify the problems at hand–what will we do about them, and what will we do about them right now? Centered around the idealistic yet essential urgency of young entrepreneurs, the message is loud and clear:

“Stop waiting for the world to change. Change the world, and it will follow.” 

Here are the challenges put forth today: how would you take on one of these challenges and use the tools available today to make a difference? Or better yet, what tools would you create to solve the problems in both your own neighborhood as well as around the globe?

  • The DATA Challenge: “Each of us is creating data at a faster rate than ever before. Meanwhile cities and governments are making more and more civic data freely available. Help people reveal the opportunities hidden at the intersection of these two emergent forms of data.”
  • The OPEN DESIGN Challenge: “Almost everything we use daily was carefully designed and built by someone. Show people how the world is made so they can make it better.”
  • The HEALTH Challenge: “Help others see healthcare as a human right.”
  • The POVERTY Challenge: “Most New Yorkers do not realize that there are 1.8 million people living below the poverty line in NYC. How can we engage the other 6.2 million New Yorkers to spread awareness of poverty in NYC?”
  • The ECO Challenge: “Hack the City. Using the tools at your disposal, make your city more sustainable and less energy reliant while increasing quality of life.”

The sixth challenge is build-your own; of the above list, two calls-to-action got me thinking quickly: the idea of open design and hacking the city.

One of the biggest problems in the creation of the built environment is that most people don’t understand how it gets made in the first place. Without transparency and understanding of the design and construction process–How did that get there? How did it get made? Can I make that? Can I change it? Oh, I like this place!–people can’t influence the design and shape of their worlds. This needs to change.

The second potential topic that drives my curiosity–Hacking the City–is something I believe is going to be a major theme in the upcoming decade as the proliferation of data and metrics (and the ability to turn this into useful information) changes our understanding of value creation, of human behavior, of mapping, and of more than we can possibly begin to understand.

As each of the brilliant speakers mentioned—it’s your world. It’s your globe. It’s our future, and the future belongs to the curious: to those who can imagine. For what we can imagine, we can figure out how to create.

“Let the games begin.”

If you want to follow along to updates as the conference continues, we’ll be live-sharing updates on our twitter page @LandUrbanism, or check out @FeastOnGood for more. 


Sarah Peck. The founder and editor of this website, Sarah is a writer, designer and storyteller with a passion for understanding people and cities. She leads the communications initiatives for international landscape architecture and planning firm SWA Group. She also lectures on design, landscape architecture, and the future of cities. Interested in the tools with which designers communicate their ideas and the influence that landscape architects have on both our immediate and future environments, her work today looks at the power of our messages in shaping futures and ideas.


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