David Engwicht

Creative Communities International, Founder

David Engwicht

David is the founder of Creative Communities International, an incubator for social innovation which works to build the capacity of citizens and cities to create vibrant neighbourhoods, prosperous shopping streets and add magic to the public realm. Engwicht is a social inventor, creator of the Walking School Bus (which became a world-wide phenomenon) , and other social innovations such as the Neighbourhood Pace Car and the 7 Day Makeover, where David and his team transform entire town centres in just 7 days.

Based today in Brisbane, David is a passionate designer, artist, author, and communicator.

Nothing gives David greater joy than working with communities to breathe new life into dead spaces. Although never formally trained as an urban planner, Engwicht's innovative approach to community engagement and his revolutionary ideas about traffic management make him a highly sought-after expert in the field.

His first involvement with the built environment was in 1987, when he attended a public meeting to discuss plans to upgrade a road through his suburb in Brisbane, Australia. Though cleaning windows at the time, he wrote a booklet “Traffic Calming” (1988), which thrust him into the international spotlight.

In 1992, Engwicht wrote the book Reclaiming our Cities and Towns in response to the way cities were implementing the concepts in his first book. He also travelled the world working as a consultant bringing his Placemaking knowledge to city agencies and communities throughout the UK, Italy, Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia. In 1992 he became a member of the CEAD Committee (Community, Environment, Art & Design) of the Australia Council, a government arts funding body.

In 1996 he made an accidental discovery: the speed of traffic on residential streets is governed, to a large extent, by the degree to which residents have psychologically retreated from their street. This insight, and many others, became part of a publication called Street Reclaiming: Creating Liveable Streets and Vibrant Communities (1999), which proposed that streets be treated not just as corridors but also as places for community building and engine-rooms of robust local economies.

In 2005, this book was followed by Mental Speed Bumps: The Smarter Way to Tame Traffic. David’s books have been used as texts in university courses and changed the way transport planning has been done in cities like Edenborough, Scotland.

David has been described by Project for Public Spaces in New York as ‘as one of the world’s most innovative thinkers on creating vibrant public spaces’.

His latest book, Your New Wings, living life more creatively, explores the nature of creativity, the source of his own creativity, and how we are all hard-wired to think outside the box.

Disrupt Your Thinking: How to Think Like a Fool

As David says: “In 1996, I was asked by a Scottish politician for the secret of my creativity. I didn’t have an answer, but I suspected it had something to do with my deeply dysfunctional childhood. The politician’s question stirred my curiosity, and I began searching for answers. What I discovered is that in nature there is an ‘ecology of creativity’, which moves in cycles.

“In this presentation, we will explore why ‘disruption’ (a return to a chaotic state) is a fundamental component of that cycle. The human brain has evolved a number of internal mechanisms for optimising this ‘ecology of creativity’ – which includes mechanisms to plunge the brain back into a chaotic state: dreaming, story-telling, and humour.

“We will zero in on humour, and discuss the role of the Court Jester throughout history. I will then explain the three steps to systematically ‘think like a fool’, and give practical examples of how this can produce out-of-the-box solutions.”

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