In June 2009 the STIR Foundation (City of Tomorrow) of Jean-Paul Close presented its mission to address the transformation of society by experimenting with social and systems innovation, taking the human being as central point of interest, not economies or politics. Members of the foundation work in work groups to see if solutions could be found for the hotspots of societal crisis. Numerous initiatives were started in the field of energy transition, mobility, city redesign, decentralization, food innovation, healthcare innovation, new way of working, exhaust minimization, etc.
None of the experiments took a flight and stranded out of economic interests of partners or lack of support. Numerous congresses and brainstorm sessions were organized but no one wanted to work in cooperative format as suggested by Jean-Paul Close.
February 2010: Close was invited to speak at a world wide congress about the difficulties of breaking through the system’s complexity and the opposition of government to change. The congress was held in real time through internet. Cisco presented a test case in which they analysed the reduction of air pollution when people applied the new way of working (working from home with high level ICT). The test was finishing so no further initiatives would be deployed. Intheair.es from Madrid presented a project to show air pollution in 3D over the city. The project was ending due to lack of funding.
Summing up the many failing initiatives of STIR in Eindhoven, the inspiration from Cisco and Madrid with their ending projects, Jean-Paul Close went home with the idea to bring all the ideas together into one single concept. Using Air Quality and Human Health as guiding parameters he would be able to fit all sub projects of change into a cooperative venture without stepping on the toes of old economical and political interest or power positions. He started to work out the idea and addressed his network in Eindhoven. These officials said that air quality was governed on national level, with funding channeled through the province of North Brabant directly to the city of Eindhoven.
In April 2010 Jean-Paul send an intention statement to the new director of economy and mobility of the province, an old councilor of the city of Eindhoven with he had a good contact. The intention was picked up by the civil servant responsible for the air quality program, Edwin Weijtmans, who became the first official supporter of the idea.
Meanwhile Marco van Lochem had accepted the invitation to participate because of his very connected network in the high tech world and his expertise as executive manager of technology driven projects.
November 2010: Officials of the Province North Brabant give the green light for the proof of concept proposition of Jean-Paul Close that would lead to AiREAS. Marco van Lochem committed to working together as co-founder with the objective to involve his technological network. Edwin Weijtmans became the government partner in the process. 25.000€ were provided to pave the way for the proof of concept.
The logo shows the AiREAS name with the “i” transformed into a sensor.
Januari 2011: The very first meeting of AiREAS in the Netherlands was held at the Airport of Eindhoven. Invited were representatives of local government (province), global business enterprises (Philips Lighting, Tom Tom), universities (Twente), the initiators Marco van Lochem and Jean-Paul Close, and Nerea Calvillo, the inspiring potential partner from Madrid who had contributed to the original ideology behind the initiative. The objectives were positioned from a global perspective because of the global issue of air pollution. The meting was held to explain the AiREAS mission, objectives and way of working. The people present all gave their initial commitment with the exception of TomTom that was wound up in a restructuring phase.
April 15th, 2011: On April 15th 2011 the cooperative AiREAS was formally registered at the notary Schäffers in Eindhoven by Jean-Paul Close and Marco van Lochem. Part of the 25.000€ were the starting capital provided through the STIR Foundation. This foundation also was registered with the formal task to protect the human value driven format of the venture. The first issue of system’s tension was encountered when we realized that the legal formats in our current society do not facilitate value driven cooperatives, just money driven ones. Through the statutory description we could overcome the issue temporarily even though this would eventually needed to be addressed from a nationwide constitutional point of view. To do that we would first need to prove ourselves. “Legal and illegal” becomes very relative. Creating “living labs” in regions all such impediments could become visible and dealt with by all involved. Many more would appear.
June 21st, 2011: The first formal AiREAS encounter started with a national character, presenting the proof of concept with the demonstrator to show what complexity we would face. The meeting was held in the Province house at Den Bosch. All known key local and national key players within the context of air quality were invited and about 50 attended. Presentations were given by a representative list of people who all gave a unique view of the problem from their own perspective.
At the end of the encounter a lot of views had been shared but no commitment was given for co-creation. The national challenge was too far fetched at that stage. It was suggested that a smaller territory was needed to prove the way of working of AiREAS. From global in January 2011 we got to national in June 2011 with the mission to go further local.
In 2010 the city council elections had reshuffled the local politics also in Eindhoven. The issue of “sustainability” and “civilian participation” had become part of the 4 year governance. The local alderman Mary-Ann Schreurs was asked to consider accepting the invitation to use Eindhoven as living lab for the first Local AiREAS. When approached in June 2011 after the nationwide meeting the reacted with her traditional communication, short and concise: “Yes! We want this”. The first Local AiREAS was born and a new lesson learned. A Local AiREAS needs the commitment of people who can actually take responsibility. From a territorial perspective this is at city level. The higher we get in the national hierarchy the more fragmented the responsibilities were organized. Only at this stage a certain profile of city councilor in a medium sized town could comply. In Eindhoven we found at last the right combination of people willing to participate in the first Local AiREAS adventure.