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Global Challenge: Local Flavour

I recently hopped across the ditch to Queensland, Australia’s Sunshine State, for the Ideas Featival in Brisbane. We’ve been running a Local Food Challenge on OpenIDEO in conjunction with the festival and state government – featuring inspirations and innovative concepts from our spirited global community over the last couple of months. In Brisbane the OpenIDEO team were joined by policy-makers, food producers, farmers, retailers, researchers, educators, students, innovators and community connectors. Together, over two days of workshops, we explored behaviour change, customer journeys, environmental performance, health impact, community engagement, scalability and business models – alongside feasibility and implementation of the awesome shortlisted Local Food Challenge concepts.
 

Paul Bennett, Chief Creative Officer, IDEO

It was a particularly momentous occasion for me as I met a couple of my OpenIDEO colleagues for the first time after 6 months of working together from across our globally dispersed locations. Our co-founder, Tom Hulme, presented to a full house, asking How Do You Engage Those of the Edge? – celebrating the power of participation. IDEO’s Chief Creative Officer, Paul Bennett, provoked the crowd with Global Problem Solving: Can Small x Many = Big – confronting traditional interpretations of design to reveal how design thinking could be employed to address future social, ecological and political challenges.
 

Attendees were enthusiastic about the cross-disciplinary nature of the workshop teams. While we’re used to working in this way – it was refreshing for others who found it perspective building and got excited at the dynamic networks which formed around specific concepts. Read more on the workshops from our festival buddy, Ben Morgan, over at indesignlive.com And here’s an assortment of festival chit-chat:
 

Festival rock-star & entrepreneur, Robert Pekin, Food Connect: “Gee Whizz! Amazing to watch how local folk have applied their specialist knowledge to adapting these exciting concepts to the Australian context.”
 

Backyard transformer, Ben Grub, Permablitz: “There’s been a really good cross-section of players. I don’t usually interact with government, media and farmers and it was great to thrash out ideas from an online platform in an energised offline environment.”
 

Ray Palmer, Queensland Farmer with Symara Farms: “It was affirming to note that there’s a growing movement of folks who want to know the story behind what’s on their plate – across various sectors and communities.”
 

Jakob Trischler, Shortlisted OpenIDEATOR: “Awesome to get lively insights on a hot topic from such a diverse group from different disciplines.”
 

Ewan McEoin, Local Food Challenge Australian Lead: “Energy Central. Folks were amped to be building off such a diverse range of concepts supporting local goodness.”
 

Anna Bligh, Queensland Premier: “The Local Food Challenge has just gone gangbusters. You can actually go to the world with an idea and look for answers.”
 

Paul Bennett, Chief Creative Officer, IDEO: “Hundreds of great builds, amazing energy, long days with crazy jetlag but really, really worth it.Our first outreach OpenIDEO workshop was amazing and was powered by all your great input. Thank you all!”
 

Our local challenge collaborator will continue to pursue avenues to prototype a selection of concepts together with local government and those with relevant expertise, contacts and outreach capabilities on the ground. As always we’re keen to translate the stellar skills of our growing, global OpenIDEO community into real world action and change – to enhance resilience at a local level. We’ll be celebrating impact developments over on our newly launched Realisation Phases.
 

On the back of the intensity of the workshops we rounded off our energetic sessions with a spot of fun. We distributed stickers to participants and dispatched them across the gorgeously sprawling riverside area surrounding the State Library, to seek inspiration. The stickers prompted folks to Stick It & Show Us. They were encouraged to photograph their sighting and email it in to a website we’d quickly cobbled together – with a prize offered for the cleverest cookie on the day. Some have continued with submissions from further afield.
 

Check out more highlights over at www.thisinspires.us (With a hat-tip to Candy Chang, whom I’ve featured on Random Specific before, for her ever-inventive public engagement initiatives which inspired us on this.)
 
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I recently hopped across the ditch to Queensland, Australia's Sunshine State, for the Ideas Featival in Brisbane. We've been running a Local Food Challenge on OpenIDEO in conjunction with the festival and state government – featuring inspirations and innovative concepts from our spirited global community over the last couple of months. In Brisbane the OpenIDEO [...]

Novel Tales and African Teens

Youth in the slums of Nairobi. Future readers of literature delivered by mobile phone?

Yoza publishes short, hip novels and classic literature on mobile phones for African youth. Designed to encourage reading, writing and responding, Yoza engages African youth with stories and social issues. The project, which was spearheaded by Steve Vosloo – a technology researcher in Cape Town – and financed by South Africa’s Shuttleworth Foundation, is dedicated to a participatory culture hungry for micro-doses of literature that are accessible as pixels not paper.

Officially launched last September, Yoza is based on Vosloo’s observations that African youth are book-poor yet mobile-rich. An estimated 90 percent of urban South African youth have access to cell phones and 70 percent of those phones are web-enabled. In stark contrast, more than half of South African households own no leisure books and only 7 percent of public schools have functional libraries.

Illustrations from Yoza’s premiere edition: Kontax

Yoza’s first story, Kontax, followed the adventures of a local graffiti crew around Cape Town. Its 20 pages were initially published over a month of daily dispatches via a mobisite and later on the popular MXit social network. Each episode, released in both English and isiXhosha, was around 400 words long. Prizes were offered for the best comments and sequel ideas from Kontax readers.

Via Yoza, 17,000 users accessed the full premiere Kontax series for free — well eclipsing the South African “best-seller” standard of 5,000 book sales. Each chapter costs the reader around 1 US cent to download. Explains Vosloo, “Mobile data is cheap relative to voice and SMS — and of course, books. It’s also about access.” According to Vosloo, readership exploded when Yoza was made available to MXit’s 15 million local subscribers — a share currently far greater than Facebook’s.

Yoza content on MXit social network and on a mobisite (Image courtesy of Yoza)

The comments feature allows Vosloo to stay in touch with what readers want. “It’s become clear that youth are keen to be both educated and entertained,” he notes. “We get many requests for stories which are relevant to their lives. We’ve had requests for story lines which cover drugs and teen pregnancy, careers, money and more.” Feedback has helped to shape onwards content which includes Streetskillz, set during the football World Cup, Sisterz which explores dark family secrets and teenage life plus Confessions of a Virgin Loser which follows a boy steering his way through a complicated world of peer pressure, teenage sex and HIV/AIDS. Social issues provide a further avenue for interaction. A story which touched on domestic violence elicited a slew of comments in support of the affected character and posts of personal accounts which empathised with her situation.
 

South African students read and respond to Yoza content. (Image courtesy of Yoza)

Alongside popular culture content, Yoza has also been adding episodic versions of classics from Shakespeare to Wordsworth and other curriculum related texts. Feedback from teachers in low-income schools tells of class assignments given in conjunction with Yoza content and applauds the access to classic literature which the platform has provided. While some may criticise the informal use of language by readers – comments across the site also highlight an engaged audience ready to amend mistakes which have eluded Yoza’s editors. Although youthful readers may comment in text-speak, they eagerly respond with corrections on errors which creep into stories.

Looking to the future, Vosloo has been speaking with various potential sponsors who understand the bridge he has created between reading, response and social issues. One such discussion has been with a bank around the notion of a series featuring elements of financial literacy within its storyline. An aspect which is attractive to sponsors is the appetite created through releasing stories in installments but also that the entire series is then available on the Yoza site and continues to attract commentary. “It’s a bit like the transition from a box-office to DVD release,” adds Vosloo. “There’s the initial rush to devour a fresh feature yet the legacy contributes to a growing library of accessible content.”

An edited version of this article appears in my Change Observer Report on Design Observer.

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Amplifying African Ingenuity

Youth in the slums of Nairobi. Future readers of literature delivered by mobile phone? Yoza publishes short, hip novels and classic literature on mobile phones for African youth. Designed to encourage reading, writing and responding, Yoza engages African youth with stories and social issues. The project, which was spearheaded by Steve Vosloo – a technology [...]

Wish List Fills Urban Gaps

New Orleans remains peppered with vacant storefronts and folks who still need things. Designer, artist and urban planner, Candy Chang, created a participatory public art initiative which provided voice to residents – sharing thoughts about what they want and where they want it. I Wish This Was encourages locals to write their thoughts on fill-in-the-blank stickers and put them on abandoned buildings and beyond. A great way to spark conversations and nudge folks to imagine what their city could be.
 


 
Candy is a sassy, multi-discplinary player who has strung her projects across the globe from Nairobi to Finland, Brooklyn to Johannesburg. She’s got degrees in Architecture, Graphic Design and Urban Planning and has toiled for Nokia and the New York Times.
 

She’s devised some fab initiatives including a neighbourly post-it note exchange, a guide for street vendors in NYC and a spot of sidewalk psychiatry. More recently she co-founded Civic Center – a studio that creates projects which make cities more accessible and engaging.

Image (detail) of Candy by Randal Ford for Fast Company

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New Orleans remains peppered with vacant storefronts and folks who still need things. Designer, artist and urban planner, Candy Chang, created a participatory public art initiative which provided voice to residents – sharing thoughts about what they want and where they want it. I Wish This Was encourages locals to write their thoughts on fill-in-the-blank [...]

OpenIDEO: Better Together

“That OpenIDEO thing is great isn’t it?” My mother, approaching 80, discovered Google Buzz a few months back and has been following me on Twitter from there. Via one of my tweets, she had a look around OpenIDEO and was fascinated by the scope of inspiration and global collaboration. As a doctor she has always been somewhat in the dark about what I do for a living but from following my Twitter links she’s started to get the idea. “It’s about design and people and making the world a better place, right?” she offered as a perspective on my professional pursuits.

[vimeo]13707896[/vimeo]

 
So it was helpful when I announced recently that I had a contract with IDEO as a Community Manager on OpenIDEO, that she already knew what it was. OpenIDEO is a place where people design better together for social good. It’s an online platform for creative thinkers: the seasoned designer and the new guy who just signed on, the art student and the MBA, the active participant and the curious lurker. This diversity makes up the creative guts of OpenIDEO. And the best part is it’s constantly in beta – so the platform continues to evolve over time.
 

After a challenge is posted on OpenIDEO, the three development phases – inspiration, concepting, and evaluation – are put into action. All resulting concepts generated are shareable, remix-able, and reusable in a similar way to Creative Commons. Participation is incentivised through the Design Quotient (DQ) which measures users contributions. Collaborative behaviour is encouraged through features like the Build Upon function. Challenge topics have ranged from ways in which affordable education can be delivered in the developing world to how kids’ awareness of the benefits of fresh food can be raised. Even the randomised OpenIDEO logo was designed through the challenge process.
 

Just now we’ve got two challenges open. The Sanitation Challenge is in conjunction with IDEO fieldwork in Ghana – and asks how human waste management and sanitation can be improved in low-income communities. The Innovation Challenge seeks to set an agenda for the upcoming i20 Summit of global innovation leaders. Come over and join us – because creativity loves company.

Selection of my OpenIDEO contributions:
Story Telling on Wheels (Winning Concept)
Innovating *With, Not For* Communities (Winning Agenda Concept)
Growing Knowledge (Concept)
Posters Made of Soap (Inspiration)
Making Policy Public (Inspiration)

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Solution Seekers at Play

“That OpenIDEO thing is great isn’t it?” My mother, approaching 80, discovered Google Buzz a few months back and has been following me on Twitter from there. Via one of my tweets, she had a look around OpenIDEO and was fascinated by the scope of inspiration and global collaboration. As a doctor she has always [...]

Movember: ‘Stache Antics

A few years back, while living in India, I sharpened my skills in mo’-spotting and now consider myself a discerning observer of upper-lip exhibitionism. Imagine then my delight in coming across a site where the time-honoured art of the ‘stache meets the modern phenomena of Twitter. On Stache Tag guys can track the growth of their moustaches, categorize their facial hair types, and even create animations of their day-to-day growth – using the hashtag #movember with viral fervor.
 

Even better – it’s supporting the Movember Foundation which raises funds and awareness for men’s health and male cancer initiatives.* Sparked in 2003, Movember challenges men to change their appearance and the state of men’s health by growing a moustache. The rules are simple, start Movember 1st  clean-shaven, then grow a moustache for the entire month.  The moustache becomes the ribbon for men’s health – the means by which awareness and money are raised to fight cancers and health issues which affect men. 
 

From Stache Tag’s creators Blast Radius:

“Twitter is really huge, moustaches are on trend, and Movember is a great cause,” says Sean Chambers, the executive creative director for Blast Radius in Europe. “It did feel like a really good time to pull all these things together.” The site strikes that perfect balance of worthwhile and useless. In addition to building in frivolous (read: totally awesome) features like animations for the moustache photos, Blast Radius hopes the site will increase international awareness for Movember and help participants raise more money.

And it’s not all about guys. Mo Bros have been joined by Mo Sistas too.
 

And I couldn’t resist adding my buddy from Mumbai.
Giving a whole new meaning to ‘letting one’s hair down’.
 
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* If you’re keen to donate to Movember – head over to your local division.
And if you want to parade your mo or check out the Mo Stylers – drive by Stache Tag.

A few years back, while living in India, I sharpened my skills in mo'-spotting and now consider myself a discerning observer of upper-lip exhibitionism. Imagine then my delight in coming across a site where the time-honoured art of the 'stache meets the modern phenomena of Twitter. On Stache Tag guys can track the growth of [...]

Twitter, Hip-Hop & Smoke-Freestyle


 
A while back I was asked to contribute ideas on spreading the smokefree message to New Zealand youth via the awesome Smoking: Not Our Future platform. Noting that they already had an active social media following and a focus on the local music scene, I threw in the idea of a Twitter rap competition to engage youth to co-create positive health messages.

Collaborating with Transmit Media-Creative, the TwitSpit Competition was devised – inviting participants to freestyle/rap their smokefree attitudes via Twitter. The 140-character constraint was reduced even further by the requirement to include the #twitspit hashtag. Judging was done by local hip-hop legend, MC Juse1, who also created the graffiti artwork which branded the competition. The winner scooped an iPhone, with a slew of music-oriented prizes also up for grabs to those willing to spill their skills.
 
Winning tweet:

@ohhhSunday! you’re killing yourself but it doesn’t end there/
because it also affects all the people that care #twitspit
 
Highlights:

@DropNutsDean No more banter, Listen to this stanza/
If we lose the battle against tobacco, we will lose the war against cancer #twispit

@geekyORANGEfool: pull out that smoke and will anybody kiss you?
cause when you start smoking your love life’s gonna be an issue #twitspit

@DropNutsDean to coax/all those who smoke/heres a flowed note/
i don’t care if u burn… but i mind if u smoke #twitspit
 
And more fresh cuts from the prolific @DropNutsDean

… the only thing I smoke is MCs who test me…
… yo smokin dont just result in coughin/it results in coffins
… quit getting thru tar… like a cement mixer
… if you don’t want your ash kicked, the butt stops here

[vimeo]14200490[/vimeo]

 
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[Images by Transmit Media-Creative]
 

  A while back I was asked to contribute ideas on spreading the smokefree message to New Zealand youth via the awesome

Solution Seekers at Play

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“Attack complacency. Lay siege to boundaries. Load your catapult with options”
– fundamental Moxism

Recently I participated in a NextPlays lab by Moxie Design Group along with ten others from diverse involvements spanning government, non-profit and corporate realms. NextPlays is a transformative platform encompassing a culture of participation to explore sustainable future scenarios – then to imagine, plan and build strategies around them.

The session was exceptionally well devised as a fast-paced yet flexible programme which harnessed group energy and maintained momentum throughout the day. Activities alternated between presentations and discussion on context and challenges, exposure to inspiring case studies, rigorous team brainstorming around specific scenarios – and the personas that would be interacting with them. The seamless framework focused participants’ energy on a wide range of variables toward cultivating sustainable and transformative solutions.
 
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NextPlays Labs have been conducted by Moxie with a wide range of organisations both global and local – from Air New Zealand to the World Bank and upcoming sessions with big boys Procter & Gamble. Each lab is specifically tailored to relevant issues facing the organisations, with the Moxie team skillfully migrating approaches on the fly to accommodate the unique needs of participating enterprises. Strategist Bert Aldridge notes “NextPlays is not about delivering answers but rather it’s an engagement tool to enable and build capacity around the seeking of solutions” while director Peter Salmon succinctly refers to its power to “catalyse conversations towards sustainable outcomes.”
 
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The labs have been used in both Bangkok and Hanoi to explore urban development in conjunction with the World Bank Institute. Participants in these workshops have included community educators, climatologists, architects, environmental youth groups, waste management specialists and urban planners. In such company NextPlays has played a role in the aligning of agendas towards future-focused outcomes on a civic scale. Through encouraging an appreciation of inter-connectedness, divergent players discover potential efficiencies and opportunities.
 
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And back here on home turf I found the expert guidance from scenarios to solutions, context to collaboration, macro to micro – all made for a highly rewarding and productive experience of the Moxie mix.

Related articles:
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"Attack complacency. Lay siege to boundaries. Load your catapult with options" – fundamental Moxism Recently I participated in a NextPlays lab by Moxie Design Group along with ten others from diverse involvements spanning government, non-profit and corporate realms. NextPlays is a transformative platform encompassing a culture of participation to explore sustainable future scenarios – then [...]

Fruitful Pursuits

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Sitting firmly at my favoured intersection of communication, culture & creativity are two exemplary projects by UK-based designer/animator/mutlimedia artist: Alan Warburton. Both explore food as an illustrative and participatory medium for enhancing dialogue.

The first was his Cutting the Melon/Cortando el Melon project in Venezuela. The concept was inspired by a conversation with a local friend on politics – who chose to illustrate his point by cutting a melon. The resulting project involved four pairs of participants from the Universidad Central de Venezuela who were asked to cut a melon to depict and discuss aspects of Venezuela’s political situation. Photography & video from the event were later exhibited – prompting viewers to reflect on their own narratives of the political context.
 
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The second project, Fruits of Conversation, was held in the British city of Cambridge. It took the form of a community focused initiative where participants sliced, severed and sculpted locally grown apples to explore topics which they felt define their city. Issues raised covered traffic congestion, cultural integration, planning and development.
 
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“Using apples is very much a leveller. It slows down discussions and makes people a lot more thoughtful and less combative, so when they need to make a point it facilitates a kind of levelled discussion. The first cut is always the hardest. They don’t want to cut the apple because they have to make an assertion. But once they’ve done that they throw caution to the wind.” – Alan Warburton, via the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts

Providing fabulous encouragement for playing with one’s food…

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Cultural Confectionery

Sitting firmly at my favoured intersection of communication, culture & creativity are two exemplary projects by UK-based designer/animator/mutlimedia artist: Alan Warburton. Both explore food as an illustrative and participatory medium for enhancing dialogue. The first was his

Creating Waves through Collaboration

creative_waves_1
I was reflecting today on my involvement as a mentor on the 2007 Creative Waves Project. It was a 3 month online education initiative which sought to facilitate global participants to propose initiatives to raise health awareness in Kenya. The project championed collaborative practice and encouraged intense and pro-active engagement of participating students, pharmacists, graphic designers, health workers, professional bodies and education institutions.

Over 50 pharmacy students and 50 graphic design students from diverse locations worldwide were united by the comprehensive online platform and had contact with international mentors and participants on the ground in Kenya throughout. Health related concerns including malaria, tuberculosis and immunisation were to be addressed through a well devised learning methodology which spanned 12 weeks. This included ever-inclusive tasks within the stages of Socialising, Gathering, Identifying, Distilling and Resolving – some of which were addressed from within assigned groups and all of which were lively points of intersection.
 
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As a mentor it was interesting to note the principles of self-organisation play out as some students rose to the fore and took up leadership roles, groups figured out their respective skills and capacities, particpants cross-pollinated ideas and assisted each other to overcome technical challenges. The discussion sections with collaborators onsite in Kenya were particularly active and provided essential insight to the project at large. Guest professionals came in at various stages and memorable was the input by Anne Miltenburg, of Studio Dumbar, who spoke of issues surrounding visual communication and illiteracy.

Proposals that came out of the project included a headscarf that could be laid out and used as a board game to highlight health issues, soccer uniforms which vibrantly carried relevant messages and stickers to be adhered to fruit and vegetables, bearing health information. As a mentor I found the process as rewarding as the results. Social media initiatives are gaining popularity in bringing people together to solve diverse challenges. The Creative Waves project was pioneering back in 2007 and gave all participants a taste for the power of participation. One hopes that many were inspired to go forth and… collaborate.

Photo credit: Women’s Que for HIV Testing in Kenya, by Georgina Goodwin for Vestergaard Frandsen.

I was reflecting today on my involvement as a mentor on the 2007 Creative Waves Project. It was a 3 month online education initiative which sought to facilitate global participants to propose initiatives to raise health awareness in Kenya. The project championed collaborative practice and encouraged intense and pro-active engagement of participating students, pharmacists, graphic [...]

Deck of Cards Drives Dialogue

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Last week I received a box set of Drivers of Change cards from Arup’s Foresight and Innovation team in London. They are part of an on-going research programme exploring those issues most likely to have a major impact upon society. Some time back they had requested an image I had photographed to be included in the publication and its been great to view the entire package which is designed to ignite minds in our transitory times.
 
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The box contains sets of cards on issues that drive change: energy, waste, climate change, water, demographics, urbanisation and poverty which are further divided into categories: social, technological, economic, environmental and political. Each card covers a single driver and presents a provocative question and image appended by a challenging fact and sub-issue. The reverse features further research, figures, maps and supporting detail – all coming together to prompt exploration of emerging trends in brainstorming sessions. The questions were derived from Arup’s own workshops with professionals on what is driving change in their sectors.

The cards have been used in a number of events by Arup to promote dialogue – always encouraging interactivity and often involving a sense of play. At a Tokyo Designers’ Week the cards were circulated round a sushi bar within the shipping container venue where visitors selected cards and wrote their responses to the drivers.
 
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The image I took in Worli, Mumbai from the card featuring the sub-issue Livelihood Opportunity – posing the question “How do you make ends meet?”

Arup is a global engineering consultancy which has a history of employing a holistic multi-disciplined approach in engineering design. With a global staff of over 10, 000 Arup provides an array of services for the built environment sector including engineering, design, project management and consultancy. Notable projects include the Sydney Opera House, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, CCTV headquarters in Beijing, Casa da Música in Porto and 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin) in London.

I feel the Drivers of Change cards are a relevant tool for curating conversations as are other sets such as the Method Cards by IDEO. By breaking groups out of linear thinking they engage minds in a participatory manner and are more likely to gather a brainstorm of deep insights than a passing shower of shallow talk.

Related Article:
Solution Seekers at Play

Last week I received a box set of Drivers of Change cards from Arup's Foresight and Innovation team in London. They are part of an on-going research programme exploring those issues most likely to have a major impact upon society. Some time back they had requested an image I had photographed to be included in [...]