How to Create a Sustainable Proximity

January 2015 – I’ve updated and edited this post to relate to the smartphone and app world we’re living in now.

Introduction: Below is a short guide for creating a sustainable proximity. You can use it for an area, home, park, neighborhood, community, region, context, environment, organization, office, kitchen, etc. The term “proximity” has a more specific definition below, if you’re interested. If we create many sustainable proximities, they will start to overlap. You are free to use this guide. It is based on the ProxThink sustainable proximities approach. It allows people to relate to a proximity they care about in a new and more direct way. I think a lot of our tough shared problems are not so much anyone’s fault in particular, but more just how things are organized. This approach is a different way of organizing things. It leverages technology and networks in a different way by applying a new growth model. I’ve created some new terms, a framework and a growth model. However, part of what I’ve done is to recognize, name and structure things people already do. Please use the comments below to let us know what you think or how the approach is working for you. If you find this useful or interesting, at the end there are ways to get more involved. Also, please share it. Thank you. —David Loughry


Here’s the basic idea of this guide: The approach leverages technology and networks in a different way by applying a new growth model. The result is we can relate more directly to proximities, which can often be somewhat amorphous and hard to relate to. With this approach, relating to a proximity becomes more like relating to a person. When relating to a person, you can see how they are doing, you have ways of relating to them (talking, touching, body language), you can consider options and goals for your relationship, and you can do or say things which help keep you, them and your shared context alive, interesting and growing. By making relating to a proximity more like relating to a person, this approach makes relating to a proximity easier and more likely to happen. This approach can not only increase sustainability, but also diversity and variety (for ourselves and others). Why? Because sustainability, variety and diversity mutually reinforce each other. Let’s begin.

Imagine a place you care about. An area, home, park, neighborhood, community, region, context, environment, organization, office, kitchen, etc. This place is the “proximity” for this guide. (Sometimes, the proximity might be less physical, such as a project, party or conversation. More generally, the proximity consists of elements related or potentially related to a situation, in physical, mental and other ways. To learn more about the term proximity, click here.) By the way, speaking of a place like a kitchen, see the next to the last paragraph for a link to a video with an example of using this approach for a kitchen.

Add a network, such as the Internet, to your place.

Add people who can sense, track and record things about the place. Things that would relate to what you want to maintain or sustain about the place. What people might want to sense, track and record is so varied, I’ll leave that to your imagination.

If you like, add technological sensors for the place that can record what they sense. The sensors (including cameras) might record views, heat, pollution, chemicals, moisture, sun, traffic, electricity usage, and other things. Things that relate to what you want to maintain or sustain about the place.

Allow the humans and technological sensors to record their impressions and data about the place on the network. This set of impressions and data on the network is the ProxMonitor for this place.

Allow people and technology to access the impressions and data on the network. These access points are RelatePoints. If the network is the Internet, the RelatePoints could be web pages viewed in browsers or on smartphones. Also, the RelatePoint could be an app on smartphones that most people related to the proximity each have (find more about apps near the end of this post).

So far, we’ve covered two processes of the ProxThink growth model: ProxMonitors and RelatePoints. As mentioned, this growth model allows us to leverage technology and networks in a different way. The model includes two more processes, coming up next.

Now have people, or a subgroup of people, develop a set of conditions and characteristics of the place that they want to sustain or maintain. It could also be a range of acceptable conditions and characteristics. Sustaining some conditions and characteristics does not mean the place would be static or boring. Plus, some of the conditions or characteristics might be some uncertainty or variability that people want to sustain. And, some surprises are usually unavoidable anyway. Put the conditions and characteristics people want to sustain into an agreement, which could formal or informal. Of course, the agreement could be modified over time based on new input from people, and impressions and data from the ProxMonitor. The agreement might also suggest new things to track in the ProxMonitor. This agreement is the third process of the ProxThink growth model, which is a Vadi Agreement. “Vadi” is short for valuable differences. The agreement can also be displayed, commented on, and perhaps even edited in the ProxMonitor at the RelatePoints.

Now people and technology can work (and play) together to sustain the conditions and characteristics. Both people and technological systems can access the ProxMonitor via RelatePoints, check the Vadi Agreement, and do things which help sustain the conditions and characteristics of that place they care about. What they do to maintain or sustain those conditions and characteristics are ProxRewards, or “proxri” for short. Proxri are rewards made with the proximity in mind. Proxri are the fourth and final process of the ProxThink growth model.

So there you have it. We’ve covered the four basic processes. This is a simple guide for how the ProxThink growth model can be used to create a sustainable proximity. As you can see, part of the focus shifts to the proximity that people care about. With the help of technology, networks, and the ProxThink growth model, people can relate to the place (proximity) they care about in a new and more direct way.

This approach may be most appropriate for shared challenges which people in a place or proximity face together. Given that some of our toughest problems are shared challenges, it is an approach I think we should try, see what happens, and improve as we go. In addition, it can be used for parts of a place or proximity. It’s not all or nothing. We can use it to make parts of a place more sustainable, and grow from there.

Further, I believe the sustainable proximities approach, on which this guide is based, has the potential to change how we approach a wide variety of situations, whether large, medium or small. It also has the potential to be used for some of our toughest challenges, like globalization, economic turmoil, climate change, etc.

Don’t believe this can work? Read this.

I’m looking for people who want to try this approach. There are now apps and tools for trying this on your own, which I detail in the next paragraph. I’m also looking for people who want to build custom systems for it, provide resources, fund it or several of these. If you want to get more involved in any way, please contact me.

I’m keeping a list of possible apps and tools for implementing this approach here on However, one called Quip seems especially capable, and I’d recommend you check it out. Quip does not automatically integrate certain kinds of network, sensing and database technologies which can be part of the sustainable proximities approach, but it seems great for proximities in which people provide ProxMonitor kinds of functions. If you know of other software or apps that can be used or adapted for this approach, please contact me.

Again, you are free to use this approach, and I hope you will. I’m interested in your comments and thoughts. Also, if you found this interesting or useful, please share it. If you have questions, contact me here. If you find it beneficial or rewarding, please proxri the proximity which produced it, via the Proxri links at Thanks!

One thought on “How to Create a Sustainable Proximity

  1. Pingback: Variety Can be Increased with a Different Approach | varietypeople

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