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

Crisis takes homelessness to the streets

crisis

This is a fantastic piece of advertising – simple, hard hitting, and perfectly positioned. Just goes to show that you don’t need to spend loads on building apps and viral games to get your message across. The cheaper the campaign, the more money the charity has to actually do good.

Crisis is taking advantage of the freezing conditions with a short ad campaign to drive home the message that  rough sleeping is not acceptable in the UK in the 21st century.

Donations from the campaign will help Crisis to deliver its year round services, helping people off the streets with education, links to vital services, housing and employment

Having helped out at the Crisis Christmas shelter this is a charity close to my heart, and one that I hope people will support both financially and vocally – find out more at crisis.org.uk and add your name to the petition to put rough sleeping to bed for good

Filed under: clever promotion, good,

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS

HART DECELLULARIZATION

On their blog, Frog Design have a slideshow summary of some of the most amazing recent medical breakthroughs from labs around the world, including whole organ decellularization and customizable bacteria, as well as details of the newly-established Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS) at Kyoto University.

Writer Anna Kardaleva explains the amazing process of whole organ decellularization:

University of Minnesota researchers recently announced that they have created a beating heart in the laboratory. This may sound like the stuff of a Philip K. Dick science-fiction novel – but it’s a real breakthrough in regenerative medicine.

The researchers used a detergent to remove cells from a dead rat heart, leaving behind only the nonliving fibers that give the heart its shape: a white, rubbery, 3-D structure called the extracellular matrix. This biological scaffolding allows cells to attach and grow into functioning tissue and gives the heart muscle something to pull against.

Scientists then injected cells from neonatal and newborn rats’ hearts into the left ventricle of this extra-cellular matrix and pumped oxygen and nutrients through the structure of blood vessels to support cell growth. Eight days later, the hearts were pumping.

Frog Design Mind: Medical Breakthroughs

Filed under: good, products with a purpose, visions of the future,

ACT OF CHARITY HELPS ALL S.F HOMELESS… BUT IS IT REALLY THANKS TO GOOGLE?

freevoicemail

According to MSNBC, Google have announced that they are offering every homeless person in San Francisco a phone number and voicemail to help them get back on their feet. The number given will be theirs for life and messages will be able to be picked up from any phone, with no indication to the caller that the service is different from any other voicemail system. Working with the City of San Francisco, Google launched the scheme at a Project Homeless Connect event on Wednesday.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and Google said they want to empower people. “How do you communicate as a homeless individual? ” Newsom asked. “How do you expect your life to turn around if you can’t even get information or if someone can’t even get in touch with you?”

“It just seems exactly like any other voice mail,” said Craig Walker, senior project manager of Google. “There’s no stigma attached to it that ‘hey this is a temporary thing’ or ‘this is an 800 number.’ It’s really just a local number owned by the user.”

“We’re firm believers in the power of technology to improve the daily lives of individuals and communities as a whole, and we recognize that access to phone and voicemail services is one way that Google can help San Francisco’s homeless stay connected with family, friends, social workers, health care providers, and potential employers.”

If the program is successful in San Francisco the plan is to offer it to homeless people in cities across the state and country.

However, it looks like Google might be making good promotional use of the already succesful Project CARE (Communications and Respect for Everybody) Program created by clever number aggregation service GrandCentral that Google acquired last year. Project CARE first hit the news in April 2006 offering the same free voicemail number for life service, and by October had registered more than 1,000 of the estimated 7,000 homeless in San Francisco. So the question is- is this just a Google PR stunt, or a case of poor journalism at MSNBC?

MSNBC: Google gives all SF Homeless Free Voicemail

Filed under: good, ,

FLASH HUGGING IN LONDON

If you happen to be in Soho this Thursday, get yourself along to a Valentine’s Day Flash Hug and spread some love- and body warmth! The communal cuddle is organized by eco-conscious community Green Thing who inject a monthly dose of fun into being good by suggesting something to do and fun ways to do it. At only 135 days old, Green Thing already has a global community of over 5,000 people spanning 140 countries, all looking to share and enjoy their environmentally friendly ways. Past Green Things have included turning your lights off early, using body warmth instead of heating, and swapping something instead of buying it- and by purely being involved in these activities once a month the community have so far saved a total of 1073.05 tonnes of CO2.

The Flash Hug will be taking place at 1.30pm in Soho Square this Thursday, but if you can’t make it in person you can still share in the hugging action through the Live Hug. All this week members of the community have volunteered to turn off their heating and are being streamed live waiting for viewers to hit the hug button and give them a little extra warmth from someone near by.

Valentine’s Day Flash Hug

see more ways to do February’s Green Thing

Filed under: good, search this out, ,

TEACHING HOW TO GIVE BACK: PHILANTHROPY LESSONS FOR UK SCHOOLS

philanthropy

With the recent reports on McDonald’s being allowed to run it’s own A-level qualifications and Government offering cash incentives for losing weight, it seems that the British Government have got a bit confused in how best to educate the next generation. How refreshing then to see some people taking it upon themselves to teach children about the importance of giving rather than just receiving. The Observer reports on the Dragon School in Oxford’s new plan for ‘generosity’ classes, teaching philanthropy to the next generation of business brains. Having employed Daniel Gill as the exclusive private school’s director of social impact, Gill decided to introduce lessons on philanthropy as an alternative way to give back to the community.

‘I think it is crucial,’ he said about the initiative. ‘We are sowing the seeds for a new generation. We do want the pupils here to understand that by any stretch of the imagination they are privileged. We hope a lot of them will be successful in the future and in a position to give.’

Classes include giving children a pound, asking them to ‘grow it’ and then encouraging them to discuss which charity to donate to. They are also asked to consider whether their school fees have been well invested and to think about what else the money could be used for.

Beyond private school privilege, the article also comments on the Institute for Philanthropy, a non-profit organisation that aims to teach all people understand the impact of giving:

‘Philanthropy is not just about money; it is about time,’ said Musa Okwonga, a spokesman. Lending a charity a manager for two days a week could be equally valuable. The consultancy recently started working in a handful of state schools in London with 14 and 16-year-olds. ‘Giving is not an impulse, it is a skill,’ he said.

The organisation is running a Youth and Philanthropy Initiative – a unique programme designed to teach secondary school pupils the basic skills of effective giving and to highlight the positive impact they, as young people, can have on their communities.

Institute for Philanthropy

The Observer: Generosity Classes at Top School

Filed under: education, for the children, good,

M7S OFFERS CASH FOR UNWANTED CLOTHES

M&SLeading UK retailer Marks & Spencer has teamed up with Oxfam to incentivize charitable donations. The ‘M&S and Oxfam Clothes Exchange’ aims to get everyone recycling their old clothes by offering a £5 M&S voucher in return for donating a bag of unwanted clothes to one of the charity’s stores that includes at least one item of M&S clothing (they will accept anything except underwear). A six month trial will run from January 28 in 790 branches of Oxfam across the UK and Republic of Ireland, with vouchers received valid for a month, in the hope that free money will encourage more recycling and reusing.

According to the press release:

The Exchange is designed to both raise money for Oxfam’s work to tackle poverty and injustice and to reduce the one million tonnes of clothing sent by the public to landfill in the UK each year. The announcement marks the first anniversary of Plan A, M&S’ ‘eco-plan’.

Stuart Rose, Chief Executive of M&S described it as ‘a triple win – it’s good for customers, good for people in developing countries and good for the environment’, although M&S may find it’s not so good for their profits. Which makes it a campaign to be applauded: with pretty much every wardrobe in the UK containing at least one piece of M&S clothing, and no restrictions on the age or state of the donation nor the amount of times a person donates, Oxfam may find itself giving out quite a lot of vouchers!

via newconsumer.com

Marks & Spencer Plan A

Filed under: clever promotion, good,

The Great British Light Switch: Energy Saving Light Bulbs for All

Another weekend, another energy-saving light bulb giveaway, this time endorsed by the Prime Minister himself. The Great British Light Switch sees energy provider Southern Electric teaming up with national daily The Sun to offer two free light bulbs with every Saturday newspaper. A total of 4.5 million light bulbs are due to be given away, which according to their calculations equates to a total electricity saving of 41GWh per year: enough to power 10,000 households and apparently save a whopping £20,300,000 per year!

greatbritishlightswitch‘On Saturday January 19th The Sun is teaming up with Southern Electric for the Great British Light Switch – the biggest campaign ever run on a single day to giveaway 4.5 MILLION energy saving light bulbs. If all of these bulbs are installed we will cut total C02 emissions by up to 387,000 tonnes over the lifetime of the bulbs – that’s enough greenhouse gas to fill Wembley Stadium 49 times, or the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road for a whole year!

Never before has an energy efficiency campaign of this size and scale been undertaken on one day, but we need YOUR help to make a real difference. There is no voucher to cut out – simply buy your Sun on Saturday January 19th at one of the 17,000+ retailers participating in our campaign and you will receive a twin pack of energy saving light bulbs ABSOLUTELY FREE!’

It’s an impressive stand for a newspaper more associated with breasts and football than current affairs to be involved in leading a campaign on climate change, and has the potential to create a real impact on general public attitudes towards making changes for a greener lifestyle.

The Great British Light Switch

Filed under: evironmental insights, good

CREDO offers Mobile Social Activism

CREDO Mobile (the new incarnation of Working Assets Wireless), claims to be the first US mobile service that turns the everyday act of using your phone into a tool for social change, not only through the company’s donation of 1 percent of all call charges to your choice of what they call ‘socially progressive organizations’ (Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders, Greenpeace…) but also via mobile text activism campaigns through their Flash Activist Network (FAN). For an extra $3 per month members of CREDO’s FAN can get immediate updates on public issues and call in to have their say and influence decisions.

‘Throughout the year, the Flash Activist Network (FAN) monitors critical issues as they unfold. Whenever it’s decision time, FAN will contact you by phone, fax or e-mail. Your choice.

As soon as you get the message, call our toll-free FAN number for details. Then simply press a button to be transferred to the decision-maker or to have a personalized fax sent in your name — at no extra cost. It’s that simple.’

To highlight their socially progressive stance and political activist aims, CREDO teamed up with SS+K who, alongside installation artist Paul Notzold at TXTualhealing and production team Neverstop, created a piece of ‘political theatre’ through text projection guerrilla stunts around San Francisco where passers-by were encouraged to speak their mind by filling in the empty speech bubbles next to caricatures of Bush and Cheney that were projected onto blank walls in the Castro, SOMA and Union Square districts.

The resulting video of the first event shows the reaction by locals to the campaign:

Whilst most comments were unsurprisingly meant for crude and controversial entertainment, some people were clearly making use of the blank canvas to make more resonant points. It could be interesting to compare the range of reactions from further events planned for 2008 as the campaign continues.

CREDO Mobile

Filed under: good, products with a purpose, ,

Good Opens Pop-Up Community Center

good pop-up

The lovely people at Good magazine have created their own version of the pop-up phenomenon with Good December; a community center and gallery store that has just arrived on Mulberry St, NY for the run-up to Christmas.

Sponsored by Microsoft’s impressive i’m Initiative, the center is organized around the themes of Media, Environment, Technology, Design, Education, Culture, Business & Money, and Health, and alongside the book exchange, clothing drop-off, free wifi cafe and games such as shuffleboard, visitors can take part in organised events including Etsy’s DIY workshop or visit the health clinic check-in.

Good December opened yesterday and will stay open every day until 23rd, so pop in and spread some festive cheer among your community.

[via core77]

Filed under: creative ideas, good, ,

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