Bee the change you want to see

As part of IMAs year of behaviour change, I am delighted to have a chance to talk about one of my favourite topics – Bees! And how this connects to my other role as the trustee of Swarm Dynamics.

Learning from how Bees operate has been applied in some useful ways. The social organisation and behaviour of honeybees, known as hive dynamics, has been applied to robotics where hive principles have informed how we can coordinate multiple robots to perform tasks in agriculture, disaster response, and search and rescue. We have taken inspiration from how Bees network by using pheromones to communicate and used this to develop new networking technologies, for example by developing algorithms that use similar principles to improve the efficiency of wireless sensor networks. We have used simulations of the behaviour of bees to solve complex optimisation problems in engineering, finance, and logistics, and have also applied these principles in the development of new artificial intelligence techniques. One of my favourite projects uses honeybees in a simpler way in Kenya to reduce crop damage by elephants!

So how does this relate to Swarm Dynamics and behaviour change? Swarm Dynamics is a cross-disciplinary organisation that harnesses arts and effective communications to help engage wider audiences on sustainable futures – focusing on systems level solutions, and promoting rapid transformations towards zero carbon economies, and inform awareness and action about solutions. The name of Swarm Dynamics was chosen for a few reasons, first, we believe language is important and we like to keep nature an integral part of our thinking and as part of the solution! And we also want to encourage a ‘swarm’ of activity - once a few people begin to change and make positive steps towards a more sustainable future, in the products we buy, the decisions we make, we hope that others will follow, and then more and then more, and then...we have a critical mass of people working towards a positive systemic change – in whatever form that takes at the time.

Behaviour change comes in multiple ways and moving towards zero carbon economies will need us to apply these multiple approaches, from small individual behaviour changes, to the systemic change we need to get there. I believe taking inspiration from nature is an excellent contribution!

Written by Leigh Dowsett
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