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James Smith

Building a better future out of code

The need for Cleanweb R&D

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The newly-named cleanweb is a strange place. It’s all about social change, better sustainability, and other such noble goals, but it’s shackled by the demands of today’s economy; people with mortgages need proper jobs and investors need returns. The potential is enormous, but the opportunity to really explore it feels tiny. Some companies (like AMEE) do explore this space, but are still bound to go with the most commercially-viable opportunities. There’s very little space for blue-sky thinking.

I have a gut feeling that anything that truly changes behaviour will have to do so without the prospect of financial payback. By buying into the current assumptions about how the world should run, you’re maybe holding back the really ground-breaking ideas. There are some things that will work, sure, but thousands of ideas that could make the world better will never get off the ground because of a lack of business model.

What we need is a social-good model instead. We don’t need more space for entrepreneurs, but instead we need space for people who want to change the world for the better to do so. Not for money, but because it’s a good and noble and important thing to do. We need some way of supporting and developing great ideas that come out of events like the London Green Hackathon, even if they don’t have a way to make money for someone (though of course some do and that’s great).

We need a Cleanweb R&D Foundation of some kind, with a remit to simply make the world better and try things out. That would be a place that could really attack some truly innovative ideas. And it would be a hell of a lot of fun.


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