Why you should listen
In his 2012 book Stealth of Nations, Robert Neuwirth challenges conventional thinking by examining the world's informal economy close up. To do so, he spent four years living and working with street vendors and gray marketers, to capture its scope, its vigor--and its lessons. He calls it “System D” and argues that it is not a hidden economy, but a very visible, growing, effective one, fostering entrepreneurship and representing 1.8 billion jobs worldwide.
Before this, for his previous book Shadow Cities (also a TEDTalk), he spent two years exploring one of the most profound trends of our time: the mass migration of the world's population into urban shantytowns. A billion people live as squatters. Life in a favela, slum, shantytown is hard: no water, no transport, no sewage. But in the squatter cities of Rio, Nairobi, Istanbul and Mumbai, Neuwirth discovered restaurants, markets, clinics and effective forms of self-organization.
Our challenge, Neuwirth says, isn't to end squatter cities or shut down gray markets--but to engage and empower those who live and work in them.
What others say
“[Neuwirth shines] an investigative lens into areas of urban life that have seldom been described before.” — Reason magazine
Robert Neuwirth’s TED talks
More news and ideas from Robert Neuwirth
When we hear the phrase “the economy,” often the first images that pop to mind are crisp bills being printed in a government treasury, or suited traders wheeling and dealing on the floor of a stock exchange, or a mall where suburban shoppers buy T-shirts and sneakers before grabbing a Cinnabon. But as journalist Robert […]Continue reading
“In System D, this is a store,” says Robert Neuwirth as he shows a photo of a woman sitting on a plank beside a canal in Makoko in Lagos, a booming shantytown built on stilts over the water. It’s a place where “there are no streets where there are stores to shop, and so the shop comes […]Continue reading