Three books in a pile
Publishing a book in a year

Publishing a book in a year(ish) May 2023

What Africa Can Do For Europe

Wow, where did the last three months go? Last time I posted was in February, back then we were part way through the process of getting book feedback on the second revision. I’ll be honest, I was struggling with the feedback. I was also struggling to know what to share in a blog post about struggling with the feedback. All I could think was that you, the reader, already know about how I deal with feedback (not well) and did you really need to hear about that again.

I was also struggling with the book. Is it too much to expect Engineers, and clients, and governments, and institutions, and economies to change.

And I was (am) struggling with the question, is it too late? And even if it isn’t too late are we doing enough? And I didn’t have the energy and inclination to share with you my climate anxiety. My fears about the future.

This post is not about that (thank goodness). Or maybe it is!

So we are now writing the third draft of the book. The first draft Oli and I took half each, and we just poured out our thoughts.

The second draft, I took our words, removed about 15,000, reordered the content, made it more confident, more definite (gone was the metaphor about not being able to ride a bike – see May 2022 post).

For the third draft Oli, my co-author, is taking the lead. The aim is to further focus and improve the text. Make it clearer, use less jargon (and Latin words). Hopefully create a text which doesn’t just help those already bought into the regenerative vision, but also help those who have never read about it before.

For my part, I will look to create more case studies. One of the items of feedback was that we need to include more international case studies.

In the first and second draft we had decided to only include case studies where we had a direct connection to the project or practice. We collected examples, visiting sites, talking to people, gathering up a satchel of examples that we felt were real and authentic. We avoided referring to projects we had read about in other people’s books, where we didn’t know the story or the motive behind the project or practice.

The upside of this approach is that the case studies are authentic and honest.

The downside of this approach is that the case studies are UK centric, and most sit in the South West where Oli and I are based.

One of the pieces of feedback we were given was that we needed to include more international examples. I resisted this. I resisted this because I didn’t see how I could do it authentically. And, if I am honest, I resisted it because I saw it as a way to increase the market for the book.

But I didn’t see its potential to teach me more about the subject.

I had switched from the novice, unable to ride a bike, to the unteachable expert, who thinks I had nothing else to learn.

Let me be frank.

I was wrong.

I have spent this month reaching out to possible international connections. Friends of friends. I have used the ability to talk to someone face to face without jumping on an aeroplane, via the wonders of modern technology. And I have had the most wonderful, inspiring, uplifting conversations.

These conversations have helped me see again just how impactful a regenerative design approach could be.

They have helped me understand that we (I) have so much to learn.

I spoke to Base Bahay in the Philippines and Mass who are based in Rwanda (but was speaking to people from America).

In this final conversation, with Kelly of Mass design I asked not just about the process of working for Mass Design and the projects, but also about the cultural impact. It was like I had just opened the floodgates (I was trying to think of a regenerative metaphor which didn’t include explosives, I’m not sure flood gates is much better, but you get the idea) he just gave endless examples of the impact of the work on him and then spoke about how he was taking what he had learned working in Rwanda, and how he was challenging architectural students in America to apply the principles. He pointed out that we, in the US and UK, have so much to learn (a point I had arrogantly forgotten) and it reminded me of a book I picked up quite a few years ago titled “What Africa Can Do For Europe”. The book is an exhibition guide/catalogue for an exhibition which was held to celebrate “What Design Can Do” in Amsterdam in 2016.

Reflecting on the conversations, the book, my own thoughts and approaches, it reminded me that we have so much to learn, not just from Africa, but from so many different cultures across the world.

So I hope, when the third version of the book is written (and hopefully published this time) it will be richer and more diverse than we imagined. It will contain examples from across the world which don’t just reinforce our current thinking, but challenge it and provoke it to see new possibilities and ways of being regenerative.

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