Robert Neuwirth: The power of the informal economy | TEDTalks.com

Robert Neuwirth spent four years among the chaotic stalls of street markets, talking to pushcart hawkers and gray marketers, to study the remarkable “System D,” the world’s unlicensed economic network. Responsible for some 1.8 billion jobs, it’s an economy of under appreciated power and scope.

To research his new book, “Stealth of Nations,” Robert Neuwirth spent four years among street vendors, smugglers and “informal” import/export firms.

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. Link to Video…

“[Neuwirth shines] an investigative lens into areas of urban life that have seldom been described before.” – Reason magazine

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