The Dean of Social Inventors

Nicholas Albery (1948-2001)

| March/April 2002

Nicholas Albery, one of the most innovative and prolific social inventors and thinkers of his age, died in June 2001. His energy, drive, and genius for lateral thinking helped spark myriad initiatives for making the world more livable and enjoyable. Albery, 52, an enthusiastic walker who never owned a car, died in a road accident.
Son of a British theater impresario, Albery spent two summers in San Francisco, participating in psychedelic and spiritual movements. He eventually dropped out of Oxford and moved to London, where his alternative methods of learning and living began to fully take shape.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Albery was involved in London’s underground scene of community work, think tanks, communes, and publishing. In the late ’70s, he made a name for himself when he and other residents of London’s Freston Road neighborhood were threatened with eviction to make way for a giant factory. The group held a referendum, voting for independence from Great Britain by an enthusiastic 95 percent majority. After founding the Free and Independent Republic of Frestonia in 1977, residents applied for United Nations membership. Albery was chosen as their minister of state for the environment.

Huge media attention followed, and the neighborhood was not only saved from demolition but residents transformed it into a lively quarter of craft workshops thanks to "foreign aid" from Great Britain.

Challenging the establishment with humor and imagination was one of Albery’s trademarks. He led many projects and served as inspiration behind a number of innovative social-change campaigns, including:

• The Institute for Social Inventions, established in 1985. Albery was its founder, chairman, and driving force.
• The Natural Death Centre, to advise those wishing for green, inexpensive, family-organized funerals.
• The Befriending Network, an organization that trains vol-unteers to visit the homes of the critically ill, providing
a respite for caregivers.
• The Apprentice-Master Alliance, which links young peo-ple with small or one-person businesses for long-term apprenticeships.
• The Web site, listing participatory events in cities around the world, connecting like-minded peo-ple. Through DoBe, Albery also served as host for a Lon-don walkers’ club, which organized weekly walks in and near the city.

Excerpted from Fourth World Review (#108), a feisty journal promoting the idea that small is beautiful in business, government, urban planning, and all aspects of human endeavor. Subscriptions:$20-$100 sliding scale. Contact Fourth World Review, The Close, 26 High Street, Purton, Wiltshire SN5 4AE, England. Albery was a close friend of the magazine’s founder/editor, John Papworth.

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