Our aim with this symposium is to explore the global scope, innovations and potential futures of the informal economy.

Please visit the Speakers page for the list of our confirmed speakers.


Friday, October 12, 2012


10:00-10:15     OPENING REMARKS

10:15-11:00      OPENING KEYNOTE  : Keith Hart

11:00-12:45      PANEL 1 | Scope, Meaning, & Tensions

12:45-1:45         LUNCH served

1:45-3:30          PANEL 2 | The Future of Money

3:30-4:00         COFFEE BREAK

4:00-5:45          PANEL 3 | Innovation & Opportunities

5:45-6:30          CLOSING KEYNOTE: John Thackara

6:30-6:45          CLOSING REMARKS


Saturday October 13, 2012

9:30-1:00  Unleashing Deviance at Work— Workshop with Alexa Clay

1:00-2:30 Break

2:30-6:00  How To Manage A Constellation — Xskool Workshop with John Thackara




This panel will explore the scope, tensions and influences of the informal economy. It will set the stage, provide case studies, and present new themes that make clear why the informal economy is a key topic for business and society today. It will address critical questions for the symposium: What are historical foundations, contemporary developments, conception and misconceptions of the informal economy? What parts are institutionalised or marginalised and which are not?  What does regulation look like?  How is the informal economy similar or different in emerging vs. developed markets?  What kinds of goods and services does it include?  Are there good and bad informal economies? How are the informal and formal linked? How do labor, goods and services move within and between them? Why does contemporary business need to understand the informal economy?

panelists: Alexa Clay, Adam White, Richard Tyson

moderator: Abby Margolis


This panel will explore the use of money and other exchanges in the informal economy. This panel builds on the previous, starting with the premise that the informal economy is a place to create new value for business and society. It will discuss the relationship between regulated finance and informal exchanges, focusing on, among other things, mobile money. Some key questions to be addressed include: How is the use, exchange and idea of money similar or different in formal vs. informal economies? How do digital technologies encourage and expand informal practices and exchanges?  What are the ways to establish financial links and other bridges between formal businesses and informal practices? What are specific financial needs in various informal economies? What are the challenges faced by companies operating in financial services and other businesses when addressing the context and practices of the informal economy?

panelists: Ben Lyon, Niti Bhan, Scott D. Mainwaring, Ignacio Mas

moderator: Aldo de Jong


This panel will look at innovation within the informal economy. Rather than approach informal economic practices as make-do strategies of people in the margins, panelists explore the potential for the lean and agile practices of the informal economy to adapt to contemporary global shifts. Some key questions to be addressed include: Can informal economic practices be indicators of future economic activity? What can these practices teach us about our own innovation efforts and modes of doing business?  What does the persistence of informal economies mean for the future of business? What challenges does it present? What are some ways companies can act on opportunities?

panelists: Steve Daniels, Tim “Tai-pan” Brown, Scott Smith

moderator: Rich Radka



Morning session: Unleashing Deviance at Work: Co-opting Innovation from the World’s Informal and Black Market Economies

Hosted by Alexa Clay , co-author of The Misfit Economy

Workshop Summary:

What can pirates, inner-city gangsters, and political agitators and occupiers teach us about innovation? This workshop explores the underground innovation dilemmas currently facing today’s deviant elite. Participants will assume the perspective of an underground innovator and problem-solve around a real-life scenario currently facing someone in the Misfit Economy. We’ll aim to explore several questions: 1) What principles of informality are being pioneered by today’s fringe innovators? 2) How can lessons from underground business be used to transform business-as-usual? 3) What will be the impact of greater informality on corporate R&D, consumer engagement, human capital management, etc.?


Afternoon session: How To Manage A Constellation – Xskool Workshop

Hosted by John Thackara, director of Doors of Perception

Workshop Summary:

The biggest challenges we face – and the biggest opportunities – involve the creation of value without destroying natural and social assets. Think about the food systems of a city;  the restoration of a river; or the management of informal markets. Such challenges cannot successfully be addressed without the engagement of all the  actors concerned. A variety of different stakeholders – formal and informal, big and small – need to to work together But how?
The Stockholm Resilience Institute describes these multi-party alliances as ‘socialecological coalitions’, or ‘constellations’. In Brazil, they use the word ‘articulation’. In the  US, they practice collaborative watershed management; in Lagos, ‘Multi Actor Ecosystem  Participation’. Each example is unique to its context, but they have key questions in  common to do with shared value, scale, ownership, governance, process and capabilities.
The starting point of the workshop is an observation: locking cats in a room does not turn  them into happy collaborators. Something more is needed. The purpose of this workshop  is to explore what that extra ‘something’ might be, and how to achieve it.




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