Chapter 1: Status Quo

A derelict brewery marks a grim entrance to the British industrial midlands, as it has done for more than a decade. The 135-year-old Mitchells & Butler enterprise was burned out in 2004.

David, a business consultant, passes the architectural eyesore each time he travels to lecture at the local faculty of engineering.

Now his university boss has challenged him to lead businesses in transforming the site at Springfield, Wolverhampton, into a 21st century learning campus to help drive a future 'midlands engine'.

But David's unsure. What would a 21st century campus look like? Where should he start? Will David be able to make this work? Read on…

Click through to the local newspaper archives.

Chapter 2: Call to Adventure

David receives an intriguing email from his team. It’s a chance to join a ‘smart’ study tour to one of the world’s most futuristic cities. With thousands of exhibitors, and taking in project demonstrators around the city, he realises it’s a chance to talk to leading thinkers on urban design and construction and to develop his ideas for the old brewery. He might even discover an existing modern learning campus.

The innovation adventure aims to help participants:
- Tell stories of a cross-sector journey of discovery and innovation;
- Design and facilitate a 5-day tour of a visionary world city;
- Tailor small group and individual excursions to strategic interests of academics and business managers;
- Time to share insights with each other and prospective partners;
- Support from a professional digital production team and business coach.

Guided by specialists in technology, marketing and learning & development, it’s clearly going to be a mental as well as a physical journey. Is he willing to step outside his comfort zone to challenge his own thinking? Can David clear his schedule? Will his boss approve the trip? Read on...

Chapter 3: Assistance

It's a meeting place for businesses and academics who want to take to market innovative products and services to create the cities of tomorrow. The day is creative and highly participative, led by a specialist in Clean Technology. Participants explore multiple models of urban development: smart, intelligent, green, eco- and future cities, and how they generate finance from international governments.

From this 'co-creation' emerges a joint vision for the trip. We create a wish-list and start thinking about audiences and ways of communicating our insights to markets and teams back home. After a couple of weeks of research, using online collaborative tools, we come up with a schedule - leaving space to allow for the unexpected.
Our co-creation design process is based on whole-systems thinking.
We learn why the Smart Expos are important for business growth:
- They are opportunities to showcase work and open up investment discussions across both industry and government. By 2020, the 'smart' market is valued at $13 billion (London) and $1.3 trillion worldwide;
- With typically 70% private sector, and 30% public sector from cities around the world, they offer strong networking and learning opportunities. High profile cities include New York, Barcelona, Berlin, Tel Aviv and Tallinn.

The Barcelona event, usually in November, is generally recognised as the biggest and the best of the Smart City events, with 1400 delegates, 400 exhibitors, 400 speakers, 500 cities, 100 countries and 400 media representatives. There are similar opportunities in Istanbul, Puebla, Casablanca, Sofia, Kuala Lumpur, Kyoto, Singapore and London, to name just a few.

Co-creating the study tour
We use a permaculture process based on whole-systems thinking that combines ethics and design principles. Permaculture guides us to mimic the patterns and relationships we can find in nature and can be applied to all aspects of human habitation, from agriculture to ecological building, from appropriate technology to education and even economics. Delegates develop a series of enquiries to guide their learning journey:

Everyone's very satisfied with their visions.  The delegates are surprised to discover such strong connections among them.  But will this new fellowship be able to pull together a programme in time to achieve this?  Read on...

Chapter 4: Commitment

Our media production team is given the green light and scrambles to pull together meetings and filming permissions, hitting the phones and consulting the delegates as we go, pulling together glossy travel guides and briefing papers. At the same time, the crew is making its travel arrangements and preparing the kit.

But it's touch and go for some of the delegates, faced with last-minute challenges from other commitments, preventing them attending planning meetings, organise their cover and complete paperwork. At one stage, it looks like we might not have the numbers -- let alone a programme!  With some still not signed up, a decision is taken to send the advance team to Barcelona to prepare the way.
Quickly, the programme comes together... And, one by one the delegates confirm their arrangements, with booked flights, insurance, conference tickets and accommodation. Finally, everyone's packed and on their way.

Meet some of our other travellers and hear about their interests: Jay specialises in inward investment, business growth and economic development; Paul is an expert in IT security, using technology to help businesses grow; Iain is developing artificial intelligence to support disadvantaged people such as those with special educational needs.

Then, on the day of departure, one of the senior participants gets stuck in traffic.  He's a crucial member of the team but it's touch and go whether he'll miss the plane. Read on...

Chapter 5: Trials

Seeing things from a different perspective gives us the chance to expand our possibilities for business and personal growth. We step into an unknown world where the rules we are used to no longer apply. These differences highlight our own assumptions about the way the world should work. Understanding and appreciating those viewpoints is a powerful step towards creativity and innovation.

After an adventurous transition, our fellowship of intrepid urban researchers immediately sense there's something different about this 'smart' city. It's clear that this is a very holistic approach to development. At the same time, we're all beginning to learn that, despite the inspiring potentional, the concept of a smart city is still very much work in progress.
Below are some of the apps we tested - click through to view the huge selection of city apps for Barcelona. Thinking about a business-oriented city, our daily reflective sessions generate a new sense of a community of enquiry. How many of our cities are ready for welcoming international trade? What image do they present both physically and digitally? In what languages are the apps available?

There are tests and trials for both the production team and our delegation. A big thanks to Ryan, an erstwhile member of our production crew, who spent a day trekking across the city testing these out. He struggled to find his way to the football stadium, getting lost and having his wallet stolen in the process. Luckily, our Spanish is coping well and we have a super support network on the ground.