London’s Olympic Legacy and the Imagine Methodology

In 2010 Future of London commissioned academics to work with representatives from the London Boroughs, to consider the legacy of the Olympic Village taking shape in Stratford, in the East End of London. The exercise, in the form of a workshop, was to: review the current context/situation; prioritize issues; envisage future options; explore and develop relevant sustain- ability indicators; develop a forward plan for community development. This article describes the process adopted in the analysis of the Olympic Village’s transformation from World Media Site to a sustainable part of the Greater London metropolis. The methodology applied, Imagine, is described and some of the key outputs from the analysis and design of legacy process are described. In conclusion the article examines the oeuvre of projects of this kind when set against the challenges of longer term sustainability.

Olympic Legacy Imagine Rich Pictures Simon Bell

Open University PDF Link

Sage Journal Link

Bell, S. and Faren Bradley, J, (2012). London’s Olympic legacy and the Imagine methodology. Local Economy, 27, 1, pp. 55 – 67. DOI: 10.1177/0269094211425325

Sustainable Development Indicators: The Tyranny of Methodology Revisited


One of the Rich Pictures which Emerged from the Slovakian Workshop on Sustainable Development Simon Bell

One of the Rich Pictures which Emerged from the Slovakian Workshop on Sustainable Development.

Indicators are increasingly dominating our lives; whether we are aware of it or not. They have been popular tools for sustainable development policy makers, planners and managers, largely because they do the hard work of condensing complexity into single values that can be more easily digested and acted upon. But much power rests with those who select the indicators deemed to be important. This paper explores some of these issues at what is now regarded by some as the new frontier in “indicatorology‟; their use and influence. The authors argue that a new tyranny of methodology may be at play.

Background: Tyranny from 1994-2010

The raison d‟etre for this article is to return to a paper from 1994 and explore our current state with regards to what was then described as a “Tyranny of Methodology‟ and which has been referred to variously in the journal Public Administration and Development and elsewhere as tyrannic approaches. The 1994 paper (Bell, 1994) observed that, in much the same way as conventional Empires are often experienced as tyrannical, projecting dominant mindsets and approaches onto subjugated (powerless) populations, so the products of western intellectualism can also be seen in terms of tyranny, oppressing local population and enforcing subtle forms of domination. Other journals have recently explored a similar area – that of multiple knowledge and the potential role for certain forms of technocratic dominance in development discourses. Ironically, forms of intended or unintended dominance are seen as being evident even for methods which are regarded by their proponents as “participatory‟ – and intended to be “liberating‟ and “empowering‟ for peoples of the developing world.

A key element of the 1994 paper was contained in the definition of the tyranny of methodology:

“ tyranny – ‘exercise of power over subjects and others with a rigour not authorised by law or justice” (Websters New International Dictionary)

In the 1994 paper this definition was extended to the area of applied intellect in method:

“Tyranny defies both law and justice in its impact upon its subject. The key factor here is the idea that methods ….. are often not justified by context (without adaptation). They are imposed in an arbitrary fashion without regard to what would be just or lawful. They are exercised with immense power over a population who have little capacity to either reject or modify them.”

Open University PDF Link

Bell, S. and Morse, S. 2011. Sustainable Development Indicators: The Tyranny of Methodology Revisited. Consilience. 6, 1, pp. 222 – 239.

Imagine Coastal Sustainability


Imagine Coastal Sustainability
 Simon BellSince 2000 Coastal Area Management Programmes (CAMPs) supported by UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) and the Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Centre (PAP/RAC) have been engaging local communities in assessment of their coastal sustainability. The Methods used since 2000 have been based upon an evolving methodology which is now called Imagine.
In 2010 The CAMP Levante de Almeria began. “Imagine the future of our coast” is the slogan selected for this project which is intended to turn this area of southern Spain into a sustainability laboratory. The CAMP Levante de Almeria project is a test and a practical demonstration of how to implement Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) concepts in Spain in compliance with the ICZM Protocol (the seventh protocol in the framework of the Barcelona Convention). CAMP acts technically, environmentally and socially as a means to design and implement new practices, relating these to vertical and horizontal coordination between local and regional administration and public participation in decision-making processes related to the coastal zone. The fundamental objective of the project is to achieve wide scale agreement on the sustainable development of the coast.
Drawing upon the history of the various CAMP projects, this paper explores progress made so far in the application of the Imagine methodology in CAMP Levante de Almeria and, by contrasting it with sum- mary observations emerging from earlier Imagine applications in Malta, Lebanon, Algeria, Slovenia and Cyprus draws conclusions on the value of engaging coastal communities in sustainability self- assessment.

Science Direct Link

Bell, S., Correa Pena, A., Prem, M. (2013). Imagine coastal sustainability. Ocean and Coastal Management, 83, pp. 39 – 51.

How People Use Rich Pictures to Help Them Think and Act


How People Use Rich Pictures to Help Them Think and Act Simon BellGroups of all kinds are complex organisations. To understand them and to facilitate them in process terms is a matter of rich and diverse discourse in varied fields from sustainable development to coastal ecology; from bandwidth in rural communities to health service provision. How to allow groups to discourse, problem solve and review their own issues and concerns? Diagrams in general and rich pictures in particular can be great means to allow groups to explore their subconscious, their occult sentiments and conflicted understandings. This paper explores and explains diverse use of pictures and shows how they can be applied and understood in group processes of all kinds.


Our focus here is on the rich picture, a free form type of diagrammatic representation which has a wide role of functions within human artifice, but especially as a tool to help groups arrive at a consensual analysis of a situation. In a more extended work we have discussed the importance of the way in which groups of people make use of diagrams (Bell and Morse 2010). In this brief paper we will provide some background to the antecedence of rich pictures and to the way in which some have used them in groups and for group work. However, our main aim here is to describe in detail how rich pictures can be used to tell the inner most story of the group – sometimes the unconscious and occult story – and can help the group to move forward. Our proposition is that rich pictures are a valuable output in themselves and deserve far greater attention that we perhaps pay them when they are typically seen as but one step within a bigger process.

Springer Link

Bell, S. and Morse, S. 2013. How People Use Rich Pictures to Help Them Think and Act. Systemic Practice and Action Research. 26, pp. 331 – 348.

Rich Pictures: Sustainable Development and Stakeholders – The Benefits of Content Analysis


Rich Pictures: Sustainable Development and Stakeholders – The Benefits of Content Analysis Simon BellThis paper concerns the interpretation of pictures that stakeholders draw in order to help them structure and understand complex situations. The pictures in question are called Rich Pictures (RPs) and the matter at the heart of interpretation is insight drawn from eduction (drawing forth). Insights relate to stakeholders of all kinds, be they the individual, the group, the context in which the individual and the group find themselves, or the means whereby the context can be made more sustainable or improved. RP drawing, often as a collaborative, stakeholder exercise, is a powerful activity that has the capacity to break down barriers of lan- guage, education and culture. Drawing upon research with RPs from around the world and spanning 50 years of our combined practice, this paper demonstrates RPs’ utility, universal- ity and resilience. We maintain that RP drawing enriches problem solving and, in the long term, saves time and resources being expended on erroneous and/or superficial tasks.
However, the interpretation of RPs is still in its infancy. By use of processes derived from various forms of content analysis (CA) we argue that RPs can be applied as a powerful tool in a variety of policy fields. Conclusions for application are drawn and suggestions are made for further research relating to the clearer interpretation of RPs.

Wiley Online Link

Bell, Simon, Berg, Tessa, and Morse, Stephen. (2016) Rich Pictures: Sustainable Development and Stakeholders – The Benefits of Content Analysis. Sust. Dev., 24: 136–148. doi: 10.1002/sd.1614.