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  • Writer's pictureCecilia Wandiga

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Biomimcry = taking ideas from nature so that we can give back

There are things that we can never get enough of. A beautiful day, a loving smile, the refreshment of nature. Yes there are mosquitoes in nature and there are also lakes and rivers. If you like cold there are mountain regions. If you like warmth there are coastal areas. If you like the in between, the whole world is full of in between spaces for you to enjoy.

Sustainability includes two goals: improving health and improving wealth.   

Nature is a wealthy inheritance that enables both things to happen. When we are in good physical health, we are more productive and spend less on medication. When we are in good mental health, we are more creative and better at solving problems. When we have an abundance of natural resources, the pricing of our products is lower and we have more food to eat which in turn keeps us healthier and better able to exercise. 

The importance of greenspace for mental health

People who use the natural environment for physical activity at least once per week have about half the risk of poor mental health compared with those who do not do so; and each extra weekly use of the natural environment for physical activity reduces the risk of poor mental health by a further 6% (Mitchell, 2013). Blue spaces (rivers, lakes and coasts) are as important as green: it is not the colour that matters but the opportunity to behave and respond in a particular way (White et al, 2016).

Instead of struggling to figure out how we can improve health and wealth, we can learn good things from nature. We know that ecosystems are healthier when cross-pollination is high. 

Bee pollination increases yield

quantity and quality of cash crops

in Burkina Faso, West Africa

Insect pollination of fowering plants is a process of signifcant importance in terrestrial environments, and it

provides vital ecosystem services for human well-being such as crop production. About 75% of agricultural crop species rely, to some degree, on animal pollination, and about one-third beneft from cross-pollination by developing higher fruit quantity and/or quality 3–5 . Among other insects, bees are known as one of the most important groups of pollinators worldwide; a decrease of this pollination service could potentially reduce yields by ca. 40% ... Pollination by honeybees and wild bees signifcantly increased yield quantity and quality on average up to 62%, while exclusion of pollinators caused an average yield gap of 37% in cotton and 59% in sesame.... However, non-bee insects have been shown to be important pollinators, too... 

It is not possible for one group of humans, researchers, business people or countries to have the brain capacity to solve every problem. By sheer virtue of location, it is easier to conduct a study of Burkina Faso bee pollination while in Burkina Faso than while in Kenya and vice-versa. In the same manner, studies of how to improve our built environment and natural abundance are best performed while in-situ. Hence, just as bee pollination increases yields, human idea exchanges increase innovation, provided we use the idea exchanges to give back.

Our built environment is a physical manifestation of the systems we create to enhance our social functioning. We build churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and reflective spaces so that as societies we can enhance our spirituality and kindness. We build schools, colleges, universities and training centres so that we can enhance our knowledge. We build businesses, office spaces and factories so we can enhance our production and trade. We build houses, hospitals, hotels and restaurants so that we can improve our physical comfort, our health and our safety even when we are traveling.  

The key question: what do we build so that we can enhance our natural resources? 

Let us take a look at cross-pollination in human, social systems and the built environment. 

Advanced technological breakthroughs of rapid transit in Japan came about due to knowledge gained from bird watching. Imagine the loss in innovation if there were no birds to observe because we have replaced all green spaces with concrete spaces? Nature gives us a free and open source wealth of knowledge if we are skilled at applying the lessons.

Watch "The world is poorly designed. But copying nature helps." on YouTube

Here are ways in which you can give back to your community by integrating biological design into your business and organizational activities:


Social Innovation: What it is, why it matters and how it can be accelerated

This story of change emphasises the interaction between the innovators and the environment they are working in. It emphasises, too, that new ideas have to secure support if they are to survive. The support they need may include: the passion and commitment of other people, the money of patrons or the state and contracts or consumers. Social change depends, in other words, on alliances between what could be called the ‘bees’ and the ‘trees’. The bees are the small organisations, individuals and groups who have the new ideas, and are mobile, quick and able to cross-pollinate. The trees are the big organisations – governments, companies or big NGOs – which are poor at creativity but generally good at implementation, and which have the resilience, roots and scale to make things happen. Both need each other, and most social change comes from alliances between the two, just as most change within organisations depends on alliances between leaders and groups  

well down the formal hierarchy.


Neuronal Innovation – the Next Big Thing After Open Innovation

The Innovation Connectome displays the connectivity patterns of two specific areas that companies trigger (activate) when they engage in innovation projects: One mirrors the firm’s internal organization, while the other one maps its outside partners’ ecosystem.

This Innovation Connectome must be seen as an intangible, but very real, company asset. The mapping of key innovation-enabling networks and cross-ties provides an overview of both the wealth and, importantly, the robustness of the multidirectional exchanges and feedback loops a company has set up with its different partners. It also gives a precise measure of just how nimble and agile a company is.

Now test your social and organizational agility: what are 3 ways in which you can make your social and built environment function seamlessly with nature?  

Share pictures where available so that you can inspire others. 

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