City Conversations – Positive Emergent Disruption

Can we engineer disruption to tackle the problems of our age?



The world has just lived through the most disruptive period in living memory. The direct impact of the COVID19 epidemic has shifted the way we live – irreversibly in some instances – as well as bringing into focus areas of social activism such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo. Politicians are now accepting that the impacts of climate change may be equally, if not more, disruptive, on a global scale.

But disruption is not always imposed by outside forces and not wholly negative as it can give us the opportunity to find positive change and create new sustainable markets. The crumbling of our incumbent systems and attitudes can pave the way for us to re-build in a more effective, sustainable and equitable way. Sometimes we need to seek out disruption to ensure that we can ‘build back better’. We know, for example, things will need to change with regard to equity and climate change.

Often disruption is thought of as technology driven, but as we have seen it can equally be from policy and legislation, workplace and behavior choices. Disruption is often seen as a means of protest but it can also result in democratic consensus on the quickest way to achieve the best result. We have seen with policies such as the Congestion Charge, cities can have great impact with disruptive policies. It is often in less developed societies where we are more likely to see new ways ‘leapfrog’ the status quo because they have less in vested in the current way of doing things. Developed economies could share much with them in this area.

Finally, is it possible to ‘un-disrupt’ and develop products or approaches from two generations ago? The development of plastics was disruptive, reducing food spoilage and reducing the cost of packaging; leaving paper and glass behind. However we are now left with the consequences. How easy is it to turn the clock back and develop the ‘un-disrupted’ state? Revert to card, paper, glass packaging but in a more effective way? Can we construct differently?

We have invited a panel of guests to come up with their examples of the policies, technologies and methodologies that will disrupt our lives for the better. Although our focus is cities and infrastructure, we will be exploring this broadly in topics such as Health and Wellbeing, Food Production and Diet, Climate Change, Materials and Waste reduction.

Invited panelists

Natasha Watson, Buro Happold Engineering/ Happold Foundation (chairing)

Charlie Paton, Managing Director, Seawater Greenhouse

Wolfgang Buttress, Artist, exploring our relationship with the natural world.

Dev Amratia – Co-Founder and CEO of nPlan, AI and Construction.

Ele George, Innovation Consultant

The event is finished.


Sep 28 2021


11:30 am - 1:00 pm

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