for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant

Cameron Sinclair, Architecture for Humanity – offers real food for thought

I go to loads of events, conferences and talks, and although I always have the best intentions I very rarely get round to writing up my notes for you to enjoy. This time however the talk I went to this evening was so amazing it would be wrong not to share! The event was at the RSA to honour Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of the truly incredible Architecture for Humanity, with the RSA 2009 Bicentenary Medal.

I’ve been a fan of the non-profit design organization for a while now, ever since I learned about their tsunami relief project (thanks to Design Museum’s Designer of the Year competition) and love getting their newsletters and wishing I was clever enough to enter their design competitions, but this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see Sinclair in action – and I think I love him!

The video gives you a pretty good overview of the way the organization works, and is definitely worth watching – but it was the content of his talk that was even more powerful. Here are my jumbled notes, I hope they make some sense and give a bit of an insight what was a truly eye-opening and inspirational hour it was, and I highly recommend you watch the video when it’s up on the RSA site (probably in a week or so)

– Architecture for Humanity has helped somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million people so far

– It is a decentralised network of people using their architectural skills to make a difference – 72 local chapters 5383 volunteers – they were surprised to find that the majority are licensed architects (67%) [ie not students], 62% are female, average age is 32 years, 15% are British, and there’s a 50/50 split between those from developed and developing countries

– Aftermath of Katrina was ‘criminal neglect from US government’

– ‘don’t just be the change – be the bank’ – allow people access to funds directly
Lots of the African Americans in New Orleans owned their houses outright (had been passed down through generations) so didn’t have mortgage = didn’t have credit rating, so got nothing to rebuild

– A4H created a library of skills for/ with residents – swapping practical skills – invisible economy coming up to help each other. They found that lots of architects were turning up just to get involved and help rebuild the community

if you don’t build it it doesn’t exist – you can’t just design it you have to build it

– One graphic design student converted 70 pages of government policy into a one page visualisation – this was so powerful for the government A4H managed to force change in policy

– Needed to create homes to be sustainable – to help the families afford the insurance and the energy bills- being sustainable as a way to create equity

– There are 4bn people in emerging middle class – spending money on healthcare, improving homes and education

– In this century we’re going to double the number of structures on this earth – it’s  pretty exciting time to be an architect

– Creative commons architectural ideas – 21000 people involved so far

– A4H ran a competition to design a classroom for the future – connecting with local schools – teachers and students being part of the design team – creating site specific ideas. 1000 teams entered from 65 nations, 250 schools got new designs

– some recent projects: Skatistan, Plastiki, The Homeless World Cup in Brazil

– some brilliant points:

  • It’s better to be the tugboat than the oiltanker – we can move much faster with the ebb and flow
  • It’s better to have 5billion clients than 50
  • Culture is an aspect of sustainability – everything is local – people interpret religion, community in diff ways
  • A strong society creates strong economy
  • There is no such thing as the 3rd world
  • Your client is your design expert
  • Ethics is aesthetics
  • We build communities not destinations
  • Instigate the no asshole policy – don’t work with them, don’t take money from them, don’t hire them

Filed under: collaborative working, creative ideas, good, Uncategorized, , , , ,



Think you’d do a good job of running London? Brand Republic reports on a new social networking venture that encourages Londoners to run against Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson in the chance to become the next Mayor of London. has been set up to allow any individual to nominate themselves as an independent candidate for the Mayoral election on May 1st and promote themselves within the social media space.londonmayor

Interested parties can set up a profile on the website stating their election manifesto with views on everything from crime to culture, and anyone can join up as a member which enables them to then vote for their chosen candidate. The nominee with the most votes on the site will be announced on March 28 and will then receive a generous £50,000 in funding for their deposit and election campaign, apparently provided ‘by anonymous members of the public, who believe that the time is right to bring politics back to the people’.

LondonelectsYOU is the first phase of the ELEXU concept. It is a social networking tool and a platform for ordinary people to use to bring politics back to the people. It’s about providing people with a VOICE and CHOICE in what is otherwise a limited and controlled political process. Left or Right, Red or Blue that’s the way it’s always been…, until now that is. As consumers we demand choice, we demand 1000 different TV programmes, we demand hundreds of different types of mobile phones, different foods and delicacies yet extraordinarily we are content to leave the most important choice of all (that which governs our lives) to a selection of Left or Right, Red or Blue. It is now time for people to take back this control and shape their own destiny.

The metric for the success of this site is not about whether our candidate becomes Mayor or not, it’s not about whether we have 1 candidate or 1000 candidates or 20 advertisers or zero. It’s about shaping the debate, empowering and inspiring people to come forward and challenge the system. It’s about creating VOICE and CHOICE. With your help and your friends help we can do just that.

Filed under: collaborative working, , ,

CrowdFunder: The Power of the Crowd in the Community


CrowdFunder is a great new site that helps individuals raising money within their communities by uniting people with common interests. The concept is pretty self-explanatory and follows the power of the crowdsourcing model: a little money x a lot of people = the power of crowdfunding. Essentially it works the same way as charity sponsorship sites like Just Giving, with one crucial difference: if the total isn’t achieved in the time specified everyone gets their money back.

Rather than being charity-driven the site revolves around community-based projects, aiming to help users raise funds by ‘leveraging your offline and online reputations in the community where you live’ and making it easy to collect from a group of your friends for non-charitable donations ie to communally pay for a party / buy a present / sponsor the creation of your entrepreneurial brainwaves.

Currently in beta in Boulder, Colorado, though hopefully soon to be rolled out further, the site has an array of school teams, community projects and personal requests a well as larger charity listings asking for anything from $50 – $5000.


Filed under: collaborative working, good,

Otetsudai Networks: Mobile Jobs by GPS


otetsudai2Looking for the freedom and flexibility of part-time work over salaried security, Japanese youth can now turn to Otetsudai Networks for instant daily employment wherever they are. Once signed up to the service with a mini-cv illustrating skills and focus, they can take a daily GPS reading on their phone and just hang out waiting for offers. Businesses looking for immediate staffing or individuals looking for specific help can send a request to Otetsudai Networks and receive a list of available potential employees within the area alongside their qualifications and ratings from previous employers within minutes. Business themselves are rated on a per-manager basis for the potential workers to see how their peers have rated working for them, and the network even offers the chance for bargaining the pay-cheque!


Currently with a network of about 45,000 users, and growing at a rate of 1,000 new users per week, this idea could have the potential to fill a very important gap not just for Japan but in the global workforce. Imagine if wherever you went you could offer your skills through the network for daily employment and eradicate the need for the current work structure?

via smartmobs

Filed under: collaborative working, ,

Toptipsforgirls- online help for sticky situations offers advice from a range of women in the know on how to survive any situation modern society may throw at you. Launched only two weeks ago, according to the site is already receiving over 2,500 visitors a day wanting tips on how to deal with everything from how to get dressed for a date to how to get chewing-gum out of hair!

‘Top Tips For Girls is the ever-expanding bible of genuine advice,
combining modern tips with the remembered fragments of our
grandmothers’ wisdom. All about the sisterhood, this is for women who
actually like other women. Users are asked not just to take, but to
leave something handy behind.’

Set up by journalist Kate Reardon, the site aims to utilise the knowledge of all the wise women out there to create an amazing practical and useful online resource, or as she explains it- “it’s like being in the bathroom at a party with millions of women, all
of whom want to give you advice”.

check out

Filed under: collaborative working, life online, ,

Adidas End-to-End project


Not wanting to be outdone by all the Nike celebrations going on, Adidas (alongside Foot Locker stores) have got together with seven of the world’s best graffiti artists to produce a collection known as the End-to-End project. The idea was to take graffiti artwork ‘from the sketchbook to the streets’, and to achieve this the artists were given free reign of a warehouse in Spitalfields for three days, with the resulting creations used to decorate a range of trainers and clothing.


Cameras were set up throughout the warehouse to capture the whole design process, videos and photos of which can be seen at the highly impressive End-to-End website alongside information on the artists and the project, and images of the collection. The result is a stylishly cool range featuring individual and collaborative designs from Smart, Skore, Can2, Atom, Scien, Siloette and Rime.


The range is due for release this Friday, 16th March, available exclusively in Foot Locker stores, whilst the artwork produced is due to be showcased on a bus that will tour Europe later this month.


Filed under: arts & culture, brand extensions, collaborative working,

Rough Sleepers- Designer Charity

Rough Sleepers is a clever new twist on the traditional idea of a charity shop. Working with the same business model, all the proceeds go directly to the social exclusion and homelessness charity Novas, but this is no second-hand store. The rather inconspicuous facade on the main road through Camden Town hides an impressively designed space with a feast of fashion treats inside, and wonderfully friendly assistants who were very happy to guide me around the store and introduce me to the fabulous collections.

The store itself is sensitively designed by Sonoko Obuchi to emulate a shopping trolley, an object that is both the primary choice for many homeless people to transport their possessions, and a striking symbol of our consumer-led culture. A mixture of white walls, metal frame and mirrors, the space puts you inside the shopping trolley and makes you reflect on these themes.


The clothing and accessories on offer come from a range of designers from all over the world, an important point for the charity who are keen to stress this global synergy for their cause. Some designers including Robert Carey Williams, Zest by Ikuko Kato, Not Morris (Kim Jones’ team), and Ramon Barreto have created ranges exclusively for Rough Sleepers, whilst the store also sells a well-chosen range of young designers including Dexter Wong, NOM*d, Sylvia Rielle and Vinti Andrews. Currently also stocking recent LCF graduate Georgie Ichikawa, they are keen to involve graduates too, and to offer help to designers through their studio facilities located at the back of the store.

Yet another clever facet of the store is Rough Sleepers fully functioning studio/ workshop which will soon be home to the store’s four resident designers (including Georgie) who each have bartered deals enabling them to use the space for free.


Having only opened a couple of weeks ago, the store is sure to become a fashion destination for those in NW London, not only due to its unique pieces at great prices (ranging from £30 to £500), but also thanks to the guilt-free shopping it offers. Unlike the marketing ploy of Bono’s project (RED), this scheme has roots within its own community and Novas are making sure that 100% of profits are reinvested in helping the homeless in Camden and across the country. What could be more virtuous than shopping here?!

Filed under: collaborative working, creative ideas, good, products with a purpose,

Timberland launches The Boroughs Project

The Timberland Company have launched a community-building initiative called the Boroughs Project, where they hope to inspire people to express their neighbourhood through design. To kick off the scheme five artists representing the five boroughs of New York City have been hired to each produce a Timberland boot that reflects their passion for their community.  Keeping it close to home, the limited edition boots will only be available at selected New York retailers where they retail for roughly $150. The Queens, Manhattan and Bronx designs were launched last week, whilst the Staten Island and Brooklyn styles will launch on February 26.

“The Boroughs Project was created to help inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to express themselves through design. By partnering with local artists and designers we expect to really tap in to people’s passions for each of the boroughs.”

The designers for the five boroughs boots include:
* Jeff Ng, artist and founder of Staple Design, representing Manhattan
* The RZA, rap artist, producer and founding member of Wu-Tang Clan,
representing Staten Island
* Chris Mendoza, painter and line artist, representing the Bronx
* Atsuko Tanaka, world-renowned photographer, representing Queens
* David “Skwerm” Ellis, artist and film maker, representing Brooklyn

The next step for the project is to take it further afield, extending to other cities and communities throughout the year, and building their online design contest where consumers can express their community pride through any form of uploadable creativity, and rank the work of others.

“The whole premise of The Boroughs Project is to celebrate community and the spirit of self-expression…we’re excited to see how consumers nationwide express their passion for community, and also to see how their peers react. This new forum for self-expression will then evolve and grow over time.”

Interestingly this does not seem to be another company simply getting the consumer to do the designing for them within a competition framework (although they do plan to produce a limited run of boots from the winning entry which will be auctioned off to benefit a qualified non- profit organization of the winner’s choice), instead Timberland are cleverly involving community and creativity to help strengthen both the perception of the brand and their own understanding of the customer. And from the website it looks like a lot of people have already been keen to submit their creative interpretations and opinions.


check out the new website to see the Boroughs Project
via HipHopPress

Filed under: clever promotion, collaborative working,

ICA Launches All Tomorrow’s Pictures

As part of it’s 60th anniversary celebrations, the ICA have joined forces with Sony Ericsson to create ‘a vision of the future highlighting the creative potential of fusing art and technology’. 59 high-profile creatives from across the cultural spectrum have been asked to produce an image or series of images inspired by the theme of ‘Tomorrow’ using a cybershot Sony Ericsson K800i phone. The 60th space will be filled by a member of the public through a competition to be launched in February.

The resulting images will be produced in a hardback book, with the original prints being auctioned off at a charity event later this year to raise money for the future of the Institute. Already confirmed photographers include the Chapman Brothers, Bloc Party, Helena Christensen, Peter Blake, Alison Goldfrapp and Nathalie Press, a list of names that many an aspiring creative would love to join.

Ekow Eshun, Artistic Director of the ICA, commented: “The ICA has been championing new art, ideas and creativity since 1947 and as part of our 60th anniversary celebrations we are delighted to be collaborating with Sony Ericsson on this exciting project which will present a vision of tomorrow from 59 of the world’s leading and upcoming creative talent
and one member of the public. Each image will be as unique as the individuals. Ultimately the resulting collection will not only reflect a prescient vision of tomorrow but in doing so will also reveal a fascinating view of today.”

John Harber, MD Sony Ericsson UK & Ireland said: “”We are
constantly searching for tomorrow’s innovations that will make a better today. A today where people can express themselves with the ease, convenience and creativity that they desire and so we’re thrilled to be working with the ICA on this revolutionary project. “The Sony Ericsson K800i is one of the world’s most innovative and feature-rich imaging
phones, so our creative talent will be well equipped to successfully capture their visions of ‘Tomorrow’.”

read more at the ICA website – and look out for info on the competition
via Artdaily

Filed under: clever promotion, collaborative working

Richard Rogers Designs Prefab

Picture_1_15Richard Rogers has partnered with Wimpey homes to produce his first house design for 37 years- a £60,000 house for the new Wimpey
estate on the edge of Milton Keynes. The design is a winning entry for the government’s Design for Manufacture competition– which has granted the construction at Oxley Park. The site will contain 145 homes, 56 to be sold at £60,000 (as part of the government’s affordable housing initiative), the rest estimated at £230,000.

Putting himself in direct competition with the Ikea prefabs, Rogers’s three-bedroom ‘flexi-house’ will enable occupants to choose different wall finishes, change the interior layout as their family grows, and add prefabricated rooms. The architect himself decribes it as “a winning scheme which will deliver flexibility, modern methods of construction and a range of materials, coupled with an ambitious environmental strategy.”

The houses go on sale next year

via The Sunday Times

Filed under: collaborative working, future cities,