Trained as an international development economist, social scientist and sustainability activist, Francis Eric Knight Britton is managing director of EcoPlan International (Association Loi de 1901), an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets and the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice, Eric is Visiting Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy- at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion in Paris. In mid 2018 he decided to focus all of his future work and contributions on the challenges of the world climate emergency, and in particular on strategies and initiatives for radically reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the city transport/mobility sector. For this work in progress, you will find a general overview at http://bit.ly/2Ti8LsX . Also: https://twitter.com/ericbritton.
But before we get into the usual boring details, first a few informal words of self-introduction and context from the author.
It’s amazing what happens if you take a person of more or less average intelligence, say me, (a) give them a world-class education, then (b) expose her or him for a couple of decades to a single complex, interlocking and important set of policy issues — and all the while and with what great luck (c) put them in frequent working contact with a couple of thousand bright, energetic and generous people in different parts of the world who share these concerns, each in their own way, and who are not shy about sharing their views. (I call this collection of people, by the way, our “invisible college”, and on other occasions “Points of Light”.)
In my case the consistent issues that absorb my time and thoughts are sustainable development, economy and democracy– and in a somewhat more restricted perspective to policy issues of sustainable mobility, sustainable cities and sustainable lives – all of which in the context of continuing attention to the needs of people like thee, me and those whom we care for in our ordinary day-to-day lives. And all this with consistent (there is that word again) priority attention to the keystone issues of climate, efficiency and equity. My impression is that person after person, day after day, and year after year, and assuming you have a fair mind and some decent luck with your health, you can learn a lot and perhaps even make a contribution here or there. It also makes, may I say, for a full and rewarding life.
PS. For a quick look into one aspect of my philosophy of life and society (30 seconds on a bike, boring!), click here. Then after that we can now get to a more standard bio note.
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One of those outstanding innovators whose work will have the greatest likely future significance and impact over the long-term . . . and likely remain one of the “key players” in the technological drama unfolding in coming years. – World Technology 2002 Environment Award citation
Trained as a development economist, Francis Eric Knight Britton is MD of EcoPlan International, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government, industry and civil society on policy and decision issues involving technological, environmental and social changes which are creating new circumstances for decisions of public policy and private practice.
Born in Boston, with his early years split between New England, Mississippi and Italy, he studied liberal arts and physical science at Amherst College (expelled) and Columbia College (AB), and later the doctoral program of the Graduate Faculty of Economics at Columbia University, with an undefended dissertation on economic development, job creation and public policy in the Italian South. Over this period he was an Amherst and Columbia Scholar, winner of the Dante Alighieri Prize, and later in the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University was named an International Fellow for two consecutive years. He was awarded a doctoral research grant from the Italian government for his work on the prickly socio-economic development policy problems plaguing the Italian Mezzogiorno, and later was honored by a Fulbright Fellowship to continue his work for two years running.
Britton’s career choice and basic philosophy about his future work and life was strongly shaped by three outstanding people working in the field of economics, development and social justice, two of whom his professors at Columbia. The first of these was Prof. Albert O. Hirschman, an outstanding thought leader in the field of development economics and social science, who was his mentor, thesis adviser and in fact the person whose then-recent appointment brought Britton to Columbia.. The second was Prof. William Vickery whose work in the field of economic instruments and incentives for the fair and efficient allocation of scarce resources was later recognized by a Nobel Prize. Third was the work and personal commitment to the principle of equity of the Austrian philosopher, polymath and social activist Ivan Illich.
What these three extraordinary people had in common was not only their exceptional originality, intellectual brilliance and outstanding communication skills, but also that each was an independent thinker, a very quiet person, kind and available to young people and extremely courageous under occasionally very difficult and at times threatening life circumstances.
While completing his course work and exams in economics at Columbia, Britton taught undergraduate courses in economics (theory, economic history, statistics) at Mills College and New York University’s Department of Economics. Early in his professional career he continued to expand his horizons by participating as a Fellow in a three-week post-graduate program of the Salzburg Seminar on Urban and Regional Planning, and a month-long graduate seminar at the United Nation (Geneva) on city planning and policy. He has since lectured in undergraduate and graduate programs at universities in Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Colombia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden,, Taiwan, the UK, the US and Vietnam.
In parallel with teaching economics and working on his dissertation at the University of Rome, Eric founded EcoPlan International in 1966 as an independent forum of observation, reflection and counsel on issues involving technological and environmental change as it impacts on people in their daily lives. Over the years in his for-profit work he has initiated, participated in, and carried to completion a wide range of advisory assignments and research and demonstration projects aimed at providing decision counsel to government, business and the volunteer sector on thorny issues of technology, economy and society.
The geographic focus of his work extends to more than thirty countries, with advisory assignments in cities as diverse as the compact Westport CT and path-breaking (but ultimately unbuilt) Ahmanson Ranch project in CA, to advisory work in places as far-ranging as Adelaide, Beijing, Bilbao, Bogotá, Bridgeport, Buenos Aires, Chiayi, Helsinki, Hsinhi, Jiaozuo, Kaohsiung, London, Paris, Penang, Perth, Saigon, Sao Paulo, Split, Taipei, Tallinn, Toronto, and Zürich. (And a ew others.) He has served as high level consultant to the United Nations, European Commission, ILO, OECD, UNIDO, and a long list of national and regional government agencies, bilateral aid programs, and as a visiting lecturer at US and European universities.
Britton devotes considerable time to pioneering and supporting public interest projects involving new technology, sustainable development and social justice. A common theme in his work is the strategic adaptation of technologies, products, and institutional structures to changing technological, resource and environmental requirements (and perceptions). Over the last decades he has organized and supported more than twenty international collaborative problem-solving networks and events, which bring together thousands of people and groups around the world that are looking into new and often unusual ideas for sustainability and long-term economic viability in cities. One of the most active of these is the New Mobility Agenda, created in 1988 and for which you can find full information at https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/new-mobility/
Britton has published extensively in his recognized areas of expertise, and is a founding editor the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice (1995), as well as of World Streets and several associated (spin-off) collaborative publications and programs in India, Italy, Iran, China and Portugal).
Britain’s sojourn with the field of transportation, technology and cities was entirely accidental. It got started in mid-1969 when a consortium of European banks who badly needed to spend part of the research budget before the end of the year, got in touch with him and asked him and his colleagues could take a look at the future of these three intertwined feels and give some kind of overview of what might happen in these sectors over the remainder of the century. This led to a three volume report under the title New Technology and Transportation: 1970 to 1990, which was subsequently revised and expanded as part of a multiclient group project which counted a broad representation of the leading technology and industrial groups shaping the sector..
That accidental assignment turned out to be one of the most important and least foreseeing building blocks of his future. Since then more than 30 major pathbreaking reports have been carried out by humor under his instruction, virtually all of which involve these three intertwined currents: transportation, technology and cities. A complete listing of these reports, chapters of books, articles and events is available upon request.
The most pragmatic part of his contribution is his work as a hands-on policy adviser and mediator when it comes to transport or cities projects, initiatives and programs is which there may be considerable resistance from certain groups and interests. Human beings are basically change-averse: few of us really welcome fundamental change, and all the more so in which we estimate (fear) that the changes risk to work against our own tranquility and interests. These situations come up time and again in cities when it comes to new transport or related initiatives, and it is in such situations there can be a need to bring in for a short period a neutral but also informed party who can help open up the discussions, let everyone fully express their positions, and in the process create a broader acceptance of the proposed change (which might include significant changes in the original project, including a recommendation that it be substantially transformed or even dropped if that is what the public interest demands).
To get a feel for the full range of challenges to which he is currently giving attention and trying variously to advance with a very wide and varied network of international collaborators, you are directed to the rubric Resources that uppers in left hand column of World Streets.
In June 2002 he was awarded the prestigious World Technology Environment Prize for outstanding achievement. Over 2001-2002 he served as chair of the international jury and senior advisor to the Stockholm Partnerships for Sustainable Cities, a program with which he maintains a long-term interest. In 2000 he and Enrique Peñalosa, then mayor of Bogotá Colombia, were co-awarded the Stockholm Environment Challenge Prize for ‘outstanding socio-technical innovation’.
UPDATE 2002 – present
- Projects, partners and publications – 2002 – 2008
- World Streets – 2008-present – https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/
- World Climate Emergency collaborative project — Climate.NewMobility.org
If you click to http://ecoplan.org/library/eb-reports.pdf you will see an in-process listing of his past work, documents, presentations and reports.
These reports and documents are to be put on-line in a free public archive over the course of the opening months of 2013, and while they will for the most part be posted in PDF form, we will be taking pains to ensure inclusion of key words and dates to facilitate access. For a similar project currently in process, have a look at our World Transport Policy & Practice Archives project at http://worldtransportarchives.wordpress.com/
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The above was written and posted to World Streets by Britton in July 2014, while the Wikipedia entry was made by others (and ideally would be updated, but that is not in my hands). If you wish to contact him:
|Phone/WhatsApp||+336 5088 0787|
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13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France
Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, mediator and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | http://bit.ly/2Ti8LsX | #fekbritton | https://twitter.com/ericbritton | and | https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericbritton/ Contact: email@example.com) | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)