Could IKEA build a Resilient Community?

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the first Resilient Community report.  It’s on Water Harvesting.  So far, I’m really liking it.

Why?  It’s got something for everyone, from how to think about water harvesting to detailed plans for how to build it to how it can become a local business opportunity.  Shouldn’t be long now before it’s done.  I think you are going to like it.

On completely different note, here’s something interesting that a good friend alerted me to.

IKEA is planning to design, build, and operate an urban community on 11 hectare’s of wasteland in East London.  The highlights of the project are:

  • Homes and apartments for 6,000 people in a walk-able neighborhood of winding streets.  Cars are parked in an underground garage.
  • A hydro-electric power system that provides electricity for the community (it’s on the Thames, which allows it to use tidal power).
  • The entire community will be owned, secured and actively managed by Ikea as a long-term asset (this is an interesting twist that has both good and bad aspects).

First impressions?  While this development doesn’t have all of the infrastructures necessary for community resilience, it’s a good start.

It suggests some interesting possibilities in the corporate design, build-out, and management of resilient communities.  Let’s explore this a bit.

Could Ikea Build a Resilient Community?

Of all of the companies that could potentially build a resilient community from scratch, it’s Ikea.

Why?  Ikea has everything from the financial ability to the long time horizons to the design capability to the thriftiness to actually build decent resilient communities.  These demonstrated capabilities make them much more attractive fit with the complexities involved in a resilient community than a random real-estate developer.

To actually develop resilient communities, Ikea would need to add local production capacity in new areas.   For example, the intensive production of food and robust water harvesting/purification.

They would also need to become a platform for a thriving local economic ecosystem, to avoid becoming a bedroom community.  That means encouraging community participation in the production of food and building market to sell food produced locally.  It means support for local entrepreneurs and artisans with everything from contests (think x-prize) to co-working spaces to maker-spaces.

There’s lots more, but you get the idea.  I’d love to see what Ikea would come up with if they put their minds to resilience.


Your eternally pragmatic analyst,


John Robb


PS:  I don’t know about you, but I really like IKEA’s furniture.  Why?  It’s inexpensive, looks great, and is very functional.  In fact, I’m writing this letter while seated at an Ikea Jerker, perhaps the best work desk ever made.



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  • Randy Bosch

    Good article, thanks, John. I take a “skeptical empiricist” approach to IKEA’s plan – they may have a better chance than most if they’re willing to stay the course. By the way, the new book “ANTIFRAGILE – Learning to Live in a World We Don’t Understand” (working title – the subtitle is being simplified/clarified) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb of “Black Swan” (not the movie) renown will be coming out around September. Many of his thoughts and analysis on how to prosper through disorder are, from the draft, applicable (necessary!) to Resilient Communities.

    • johnrobb

      Thanks Randy. I haven’t read the draft of Nassim’s book, but I have a pretty good feel for what’s in it.

      I think you will find that nearly everything he recommends will only be possible in/via Resilient Communities — reform of the existing system is impossible since it is too big and there are too many people profiting from its collapse.

      In contrast, resilient communities, once established and networked, will eat instability. The more volatile it gets, the better they do (particularly relative to the status quo global system).

      PS: There’s also a book by Andrew Zolli coming out this summer on Resilience.

  • Kevin Carson

    We’re probably headed for a world where garage micromanufacturers just disregard Ikea’s trademarks and patents and produce modular furniture, so this resilient community may well find itself with nobody to pay rent to before long. Breaks my heart just thinking about it.

  • Johnathan

    Can we pre-order your Water Harvesting report? Please advise- thanks

    • johnrobb

      This is going to be a free report to e-mail subscribers Johnathon. JR