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Global Ideas Bank

A Selection of Ideas from the
Global Ideas Bank

Poetry Challenge

The London Poetry Challenge encourages people to get sponsored by friends and relatives for the charity of their choice, to learn a poem by heart, and to recite it on stage at the Poetry Challenge, held each year in October.

Trees of Love

An unusual conservation scheme in Peru requires couples to plant one or more saplings in order to qualify for a marriage certificate. A similar green toll is levied on birth certificates.


A Bag of Litter for Admission

To assist in the growing problem with litter, organizations such as swimming pools, museums, movies, in fact, anywhere where you pay to get in, should have a special day and time, at least once a week, when you would collect a paper bag and fill it with litter off the streets outside, hand it in at the desk and so get in for free. This will have many positive effects, not the least of which is to encourage kids to visit places such as museums which normally they might not be able to afford. It will also keep the surrounding areas free of litter.

Blaise Barron (e-mail:

Walking for Pleasure

The Time Out Saturday Walkers' Club is a self-organising walk club for Londoners or visitors to London. Participants gather to take walks in the beautiful countryside around London, all reachable by train, and all with a pub at lunchtime and a tea place afterwards.


Renting Apartments to People with Interests in Common

The following is adapted from an item entitled "Choosing your neighbours at Utterslevshuse" which appeared in the Norwegian Ideas Bank (Stiftelsen Idebanken, PO Box 2126 GrY¨nnerlokka, Norway, tel 00 47 2203 4010; fax 00 47 2236 4060; e-mail:; web:

Renting apartments that share a stairwell to people who share some common interest has proved to be a successful new housing policy in Copenhagen. This scheme was first introduced in 1996 in Utterslevshuse, a neighbourhood in Copenhagen where over 200 households live mainly in four-story blocks of flats. Not unusually, most people had hardly spoken to their neighbours, but the new initiative changed all that.

Today there are separate blocks or entrances for deaf people, for people who like noisy parties, for keep-fit freaks, for pensioners, for Somalis, for families with children and so on. The degree of success ranges from moderate (people get on and occasionally chat with their neighbours) to great (real new friendships and a lot of common activities that make for "stairwell solidarity"). Four ethnic contact persons have also been appointed to improve communication with and between the various ethnic groups in the area.


Pavement Poetry

The following is adapted from an article in the Illustrated London News entitled "50 ways to improve London":

Featureless monoliths, bare pavements and dreary walkways could be greatly improved if they were inscribed with relevant extracts from novels, plays and poetry - stamped in concrete, carved in stone, turning every stroll into a literary adventure - just as poetry was engraved on pavements along the Jubilee Gardens, set there during the Festival of Britain in 1951; and just as poetry has featured in advertising spaces on the London Underground and on Dublin billboards. Extracts from works which never mention London could also be used as long as they were relevant to their location. Thus we could see psalms in the pavements of Ludgate Hill on the way to St. Paul's, Confucius and Lao Tzu in Chinatown, and on Greek Street a sprinkling of Plato.


Sharing Your Pet

Jo Smith could not take proper care of her dog Mota, but she didn't want to give him away or put him to sleep. So she hit on a novel idea: share him. She placed an ad in a Chicago newspaper: "Pet to share. Four year old Bichon Frise. Owner travels and would like to share with loving older couple."


Words like these
Last for ages,
Then end up
In the Yellow Pages

Adapted from an item by Nancy Keates in The Wall Street Journal (Oct 31st '95):

Rodney Ryan has scattered poetry throughout the commercial Yellow Pages telephone books he publishes for two communities on New York's Long Island. Look for a landscape contractor in his Brookhaven directory, and you'll find Robert Frost musing about "When I Go Up Through The Mowing Field." A search for family counsellors brings advice from Rudyard Kipling: "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you ...."Turn to the plumbers section, and Wordsworth describes the emotion you'll feel if a plumber ever returns your call: "Surprised by Joy."

"Most people only have room on their desks for a telephone book and a dictionary. I was hoping this would allow people to experience poetry every day," says Dr. Ryan, a one-time student of Asian poetry and practising endocrinologist. Dr. Ryan distributes some 300,000 phone books in Brookhaven and Peconic.


Judge Lets Victims Take from Burglars' Homes

Based on an item by Woody Baird in the Seattle Times (10 April, 1992):

Since his election to the criminal court in 1990, Joe B. Brown has built a reputation as a tough, street-wise judge willing to try new ways to sentence criminals. He has ordered several burglars to open their homes to former victims. With deputies in tow, the victims can take what they want, up to a limit set by Brown that approximates the value of what they lost.

"The criminal learns what a good citizen feels like, worrying whether he's going to come home and find all his stuff stuff there,"' said the judge. One victim made several visits before he was satisfied: "The first day he didn't find anything, but the second time he came back, he bagged a color television and a stereo-component set."

Criticism has come from Scott Wallace of the National Association of Criminal Defense Laywers who argues that it may be difficult to tell if items seized by a victim really belong to the burglar. However, Robert Jones, assistant administrator of the Shelby County public defender's office, is in favour of the judge's approach: "He's being very creative. A lot of things that have been done in the past aren't working, so somebody needs to be creative."


Write Your Minutes Before Your Meeting

From an e-mail to the Alternative Institutions discussion group on the Internet (to subscribe to this online discussion group, send a request to:

Meetings are long slow things of low bandwidth. I devised, implemented and tested this variant:

The agenda of the meeting is placed on a central computer. (At the time I wrote some locking code and scripts on a VAX/VMS system, but now the same could be done easier with RCS on any Linux system.) The participants, in their own time, edit the agenda, writing in whatever they would have said in the meeting; i.e., everybody co-writes the minutes of the meeting before the meeting happens. Before the meeting, the future minutes are printed and everybody reads them. The meeting can then simply approve 90 per cent of the future minutes, and briefly argue about any remaining controversial issues.

Pros: Fast. Simple. The minutes are far more accurate and complete. Quiet personalities can get their word in.

Cons: It doesn't work in the presence of Alpha personalities. They not only like to have their say, they like to be seen to have their say, and hence will verbally and at length go over everything again.

John Carter (tel 00 27 12 808 077 74 ext194; fax 00 27 12 808 0338; e-mail:; web: or


A Contact Sheet in the Back of Library Books

From Stephen Rogers, 7 Avenue des Eglantines 24, 1970 Wezembeek-Oppern, Belgium:

Do you have favorite that you would love to discuss in depth with other enthusiasts? Selected library books could have a contact sheet pasted in the back. People wanting to meet those drawn to the same work could enter their names and contact details. I have often felt the urge to get in touch with those who have underlined and dog-eared the very pages I found significant. My proposal would be the next best thing - it would certainly provide a new means by which people could relate to each other.


Jurors Ask Questions

Summarised from an Associated Press item in the Seattle Times (January 2nd 1999).

This scheme won the Legal Social Innovations Award 1999. Since 1994, Circuit Judge Robert Jones in Portland, Oregon, USA has allowed the jurors in the civil trials in his courtroom to interrupt with questions, even when witnesses are on the stand. He has had switches installed under the lawyers' desks. If either lawyer objects when a juror ask a question, they flip the switch, which lights a button on Jones' bench, and he can dismiss the question. "This makes the jurors more involved in the case. It is the people's courtroom," Jones said. "Any trial lawyer will say it scares them to death when a juror puts his hand up," said attorney David Miller, who often works in Jones' courtroom.

Robert P. Jones, Circuit Court Judge, 706 Multnomah County Courthouse, 1021 SW Fourth Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97204, USA (tel 503 248 3038).


Unusual Sentences for Crimes

Adapted from an article by David Mulholland in The Wall Street Journal (May 25th '95):

Alternative sentencing programs that give judges options other than prison or parole are on the rise. Ten years ago there were about 20 such programs in the States; now there are more that 300, says Mark Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington DC group that promotes the use of sentencing experts for most non-violent crimes. Sentencing experts - usually lawyers of social workers - put together sentencing packages appropriate to the criminal and the crime with a view toward rehabilitation.

Many judges and sentencing experts argue that creative sentences can serve both justice and the community. Here are some examples: As part of his sentence for molesting two students, a sixty-six-year-old Houston music instructor was forced to give up his $12,000 piano and post a sign on his front door warning children to stay away. In Portland, Maine, a Bowdoin college graduate convicted of smuggling several thousand pounds of marijuana was sentenced to set up and run an AIDS hospice. The logic? The city needed the hospice, and the smuggler has the organisational and business savvy to make it work. Edmonton, Canada, is cracking down on prostitution, making 1994 the "Year of the John." As part of the sentence for clients picked up in prostitution busts, Judge Sharon Vandeveen informs their wives. Dr Barbara Romanowski, director of Sexually Transmitted Disease Services in Edmonton, has proposed that the clients pick up used condoms in skin-trade areas as part of community service penalties.

In Memphis, Judge Brown's sentences combine traditional and creative elements. The municipal judge argues that locking people up for longer and longer periods isn't working. He says the people he sentences typically are young drug users with no employment skills and long juvenile records. Judge Brown says that, depending on the crime, his usual sentence for such offenders is two years in prison and five years of probation, with the incentive of sentence reduction if the offender passes the GED - a test of high school equivalency - and successfully completes a drug rehabilitation program. Alternative sentences are also used in courts run by teenagers, with a real judge presiding, that have sprung up across the country. In one case a graffiti "tagger" - someone who puts gang or personal logos on walls - was sentenced to six months of guarding the wall he vandalised. If anyone marked the wall, he had to clean it.

Bury Me Near the Corn

The Natural Death Centre helps families looking after a person who is dying at home. It also advises on inexpensive, green, family-organised funerals. It gives legal advice about burial in gardens and on farms, and has set up an Association of Nature Reserve Burial Grounds (for woodland burials where a tree is planted for each grave instead of having headstones).