for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant

And i’m back…

Apologies for the serious lack of posting, I took a hiatus from blogging but have decided it is time to return!

I have seen and done so much amazing stuff over the last 8 months that I don’t even know where to begin, so for now will just offer one awesome thing I discovered today, together with a promise to fill in the blanks as much as possible… and post much more regularly from now on!

– everyone needs awesomeness like this:

An Awesome book

An Awesome book

Based on the simple concept of dreaming big, “An Awesome Book” is the inspiring debut work of Los Angeles writer/artist Dallas Clayton. Written in the vein of classic tales by Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and Maurice Sendak it is a sure hit for all generations young and old.

more Awesomeness

Dallas initially wrote the story for his son, but when other people showed an interest he decided to produce and sell the book himself and its popularity has led him to tour around the US reading it to as many kids as possible with the explicit aim of giving away one book for every one sold.

Watch this video of his experience creating and selling the book, and how incredulous he finds this sudden success of something made purely out of love – that really is awesome! (sorry, it won’t embed for some reason!)

(via booooooom)

Filed under: products with a purpose, search this out, Uncategorized,

ADIDAS BUYS UP WEARABLE TECH COMPANY

textronicsAccording to my sources Adidas international have just aquired Textronics, a leader in the development of wearable textile sensors – in particular heart-monitoring sportswear which is sold under the brand name NuMetrex. The purchase may be an indicator that the sportwear market is ready for wearable monitoring to go mainstream, and Adidas may be the first ones to do it…

Filed under: brand extensions, industry news, products with a purpose, ,

BAGS NOT BAUBLES

rubbish-pin

These pins are a fantastic visual reminder of your own consumption – making statements out of your daily detritus. And they look pretty good too. From Designboom:

The ‘garbage pin’ by portuguese designer ana cardim turns your daily bits of trash into jewelry.
‘a metallic silver structure that holds a tiny, transparent plastic bag (the garbage bag). this bag, once full, can be removed, closed with a wire and kept as a outcome of the experience. the piece is sold as a kit that includes spare plastic bags and wires.’

ana cardim jewellery

more over at Ana Cardim‘s website:

Garbage Pin is born of a definitely urban concept, the appropriation and reinterpretation of a daily use object: the garbage bin.

Being one of the most common typologies of urban equipment in the cosmopolitan network, the garbage bag belongs without any doubt to the collective imagery, present in every urbanite life’s day as a reflection of a culture involved with the accelerated and growing consumism, as is ours.

It is a call to reflect on the current social paradigm that confronts notions such as “waste” and “valuable”, both relative and subjective concepts. It is a call as well for the innumerable problems that derive from a society of consumers; those of environmental and ecologic sort that lead us today to a future break with the current ecosystem.

Filed under: creative ideas, products with a purpose, ,

POT NOODLE GOES POSH WITH THE HELP OF HARRODS

Pot Noodle, the instant noodle snack known for it’s dirt cheap price and cheeky advertising campaigns including the line ‘The Slag of all Snacks’, is aiming for the luxury market with a limited edition ‘ Poulet et Champignon’ version in association with over-priced department store Harrods. Adding an extra £29 to the usual price, the £29.95 dish will come in a limited-edition case complete with your very own fork and table linen, with all proceeds from the sale of the 100 Harrods-branded bargains will go to Action Against Hunger– if there’s anything left after the hand-flocked and gold-leafed pot is paid for that is.

According to Brand Republic:

Pot Noodle is made in the Welsh town of Crumlin in South Wales where 155 million pots a year are produced. Last year the brand was voted the most hated brand in Marketing magazine and Joshua G2’s Brand We Love and Hate survey.

The unlikely partnership is part of a range of unique and limited edition products which have been created as part of a ‘Design Icon’ initiative at the store which has been launched to celebrate innovation in design.

via: Brand Republic

Filed under: brand extensions, products with a purpose

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,

SHEPARD FAIREY VS MARC JACOBS

obamathillaryt

As the democratic candidates battle it out with the help of celebrity endorsements, songs, and social media, one area that has been hotly contested on the web is the use of creative design in their campaigns. The websites and logos have been weighed against each other many a time, but now thanks to two notable design names the campaign T-shirt is the newest recipient of such attention. In the Obama corner is the recently created Progress T-shirt by artist Shepard Fairey, whilst fighting back on Hillary’s side is fashion giant Marc Jacobs with the version above. An interesting point about accessibility- it seems as though the Hillary Tee costs $38 and is only available in Marc Jacobs retail stores, whilst the Obama ones were initially given away for free at his rallies and are now available online for a rather cheaper $25.

According to fashion blog My Fashion Life, both versions are selling for far higher than the retail prices in an Ebay battle, however “If Ebay statistics are a reliable source of political predicition (Obama t-shirts selling for an average of $381.39 and Hilary’s for $54.82 ), then we are looking not only at an increase in political style, but a very happy Obama to boot!”

Filed under: products with a purpose, ,

BLUETOOTH BURKA DIGITALLY UNVEILS WEARER

digi-burqa

Showcased at Seamless, a “fashion event featuring innovative and experimental works in computational apparel design, interactive clothing, and technology-based fashion” organized by MIT Media Lab graduate students, Markus Kison’s ‘Charming Burka’ is a digitally-enabled covering that gives the wearer the option of electronically displaying the face they are being made to hide. A controversial product, though not explicitly forbidden by Islamic law, the burka apparently deals with Freud’s idea that all clothes can be positioned between appeal and shame.

The German designer describes the concept behind his project:

The Burka was chosen because it is often perceived in the west as a symbol of repression. Then a digital layer was added to it so that women can decide for themselves where they want to position themselves virtually. The Burka sends an image, chosen by the wearer, via bluetooth. Every person next to her can receive her picture via mobile phone and see the woman’s self-determined identity. The laws of the Koran are not broken, so the Charming Burka fulfills the desire of living a more western life, which some Muslim women desire today. the Burka is equipped with bluetooth antenna/micro-controller and uses the OBEX protocol, already working with most mobile phones.

Although the “Charming Burka” is positioned in the context of religion, this project should be seen as a research towards the future possibilities of everyday clothing to own a digital layer and transmit additional information about its wearer. It questions which information people would choose to send. For example this might also be an image of their “Second Life” avatar.

Markus Kison – also the creator of the Vanity Ring

Filed under: products with a purpose, talent worth watching, ,

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, ,

e-Wash Wins Electrolux Design Lab 2007

electrolux-winner07Electrolux have finally announced the winner of their 2007 Design Lab, the student competition to design eco-friendly and sustainable household appliances for 2020. This year’s winning design, the ‘e-Wash’ by Levente Szab from the Moholy-Nagy University of Art & Design in Hungary, is an attractive and compact washing machine that uses soap nuts instead of regular detergent. According to Gizmag the e-Wash took inspiration from India and Nepal where people have used the soap nut (sapindus mucorossi) for centuries to clean their clothes, and where a kilogram of soap nuts would last the typical person a year: “I was looking for a substance that could replace the detergent.”

electrolux2nd-07

Second place went to the Pebble, a portable solar food cooker by Laura Pandelle from École Boulle. “inspired by the fact that we use very powerful appliances for little uses, particularly in the kitchen,” the Pebble uses spray-on solar cells and induction heating for precise, energy-efficient cooking, combining sustainability with modern nomadic lifestyles.

electrolux3rd-07

Third place was awarded to He Cheng Fei from Jiangnan University, China for his Go Fresh fridge, an energy-saving fridge with 12 individual, honeycomb-shaped compartments that are temperature-controlled and automatically close the air inlet when the correct temperature is reached

All the runners up are also worth a look- in particular the very clever Fog Shower that uses a mere 2 litres of water for a 5 minute shower, compared to the 26 litres used by today’s water-saving showerheads in the same time. Check them all out at Electrolux Design Lab

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

Actics: Aligning Ethics with Actions

acticsA name sure to be on everyone’s lips very soon, Actics is a brilliant new networking system that helps all companies and individuals to align their ethics with their actions. The first online ethical rating tool, and the first ethical system to implement feelings as an important gradient, the software enables truth and transparency throughout a company, highlighting its understanding of social responsibility far beyond any eco credentials, and further than that, helping align its ethical strategy to make the company better. The system works similarly on a personal level; offering anyone the chance to define themselves through their ethical values, state how they act these out, and then allow their friends to rate in numerical terms how true they are to these and help them to live these values more completely, in what has been dubbed ‘the ethical Facebook’.

With a background in macroeconomics specialising in monetary economics and the Euro, Actics founder Nicolai Peitersen has worked as JP Morgan’s Euro Area expert, creating new trends and vision-based formulas for the bank, and it was whilst working for the Central Bank of Denmark that he founded Kesera, a Danish Think-Tank for scientists, artists and philosophers. The aim was to find people with similar thought process outside of his own discipline, and what he discovered was that despite their different tools and languages they were all working on the same fundamental questions, and all had a similar outlook on life. Excited by this, Nicolai together with his Kesera colleague Jens Martin Skibsted decided to formulise one of these questions it into an academic theory, which gave birth to the three fundamental statements of what has become the Actics ethical system: Proximity, (understanding that ethical action is sparked by a feeling of emotional / personal closeness), Maximisation (optimising the ethical happiness of those in your proximity), and Expansion (actively caring for more and more).

Initially published as an academic working paper, Nicolai decided to pursue this further by establishing the Actics company with the aim of developing a system for people to implement and use within their lives. The Actics technology and software is the resulting system, which you can see as a social community on the web, but which encompasses so much more as well. I sat down with Actics founder Nicolai to find out all about it:

-Can you please explain the Actics system further for us?

The Actics system is about living your ethics in better alignment with your stakeholders. It gives individuals the empowerment to have an ethical dialogue and build a community around a business profile of values.actics cloud

It’s not about environmentalism and sustainability, that’s just one way of living your ethics. Actics is about opening up for pluralism, you can do ethical good in tons of ways, and being nice to the lady at the counter is just as important as offsetting your CO2.

For us the Actics system is a multi-stakeholder tool which helps to optimise all stakeholders’ legitimate ethical demands on a company. Every stakeholder will have different demands on the company, so how do you as a company with limited resources optimize your own ethics with these different ethical demands? And how can you compare them? Because we have quantified ethics in numbers as a quality rather than a truth then that allows us to able to compare each ethical value and see how to improve a company’s ethical impact.

For the first time in history we will have empirical evidence of what works and what doesn’t work ethically. It will be extremely interesting to see the data we can collect over time once we can expand to millions of users across the globe- because then we can get extremely interesting comparative data and give us new understandings.

-What are the applications for Actics? How does it get integrated into the company?

The problem with company values is that people might have it on their website and it’s static, or they might have it on their mousemats or on the walls and then have workshops once a year on how to understand them, but it’s not really integrated into the operations of the company. Our software is a widget like a Skype application that each employee can have on their computer so they can, on an ongoing basis, now share their thinking and their values, and share best practise in living these. We do workshops to help our clients to understand the maximisation principle, explaining not to think of your values or ethics as something static, but as a quality around yourself and the company that you can improve on and optimize on.

What we are hoping is that companies use the Actics system internally first as an educational system into understanding the wisdom of the crowds. All research shows you win by opening up, but our role-out model with clients is to start internally with the intranet and once they get a successful feeling from that we suggest to include their trusted partners in the extranet- and eventually onto their website and into the Actics community online. So in the end all the stakeholders will be taking part in the Actics community.

This gives them a tenable feeling of how they are living their values- and a number to quantify it. With this companies can look at how to grow this number, and can see which stakeholder group has had the most impact on a certain rise or fall of a value, and even what type of suggestions they have given to the company. On the dashboard you can do all sorts of things with data collected- you can break it down into values, focus on brands, look at specific time periods, anything you want. I as a company can see if I reduce packaging what happens to my score? If I give more leisure to my employees what happens to my score? So I know exactly what I can do, to whom I can do it, and on which value to improve my overall score. I can look at the numbers and see what the ethical issues are, and can action them immediately.

-What are your aims for Actics?

There are two sectors in which we want to innovate: one is the CSR sector, we want to revolutionise the CSR sector; in fact our aim is to make the traditional CSR consultancy obsolete – removing the middlemen between the company and the people. We‘ve developed an algorithm and a system so all that feedback is structured, so why do you need the people in-between?

The other is the stock exchange, because the price of a company today is determined by one stakeholder- the investor. What we are saying is that actually all stakeholders ought to have a say in the price of the company through how much they rate the company, because the value of a company is very much determined by whether they can attract talent, and the understanding of employees, future employees and customers.

We are trying to say that it is not only the economic value of a company that is the real value of the company- so by drawing in all stakeholders and assessing the value, and by having quantified it, then it becomes as important an indicator as an economic one. By quantifying stakeholder value you can use it and make it part of your decision-making. Hopefully by quantifying it this way we can contribute towards replacing the mere financial indicator, and at some point we hope to become an actual value pricing of companies that will be on the Reuters monitor.

We want to be guiding consumer choices- so that ultimately when you stand in the supermarket and try to decide which brand to buy you could download the ethical rating of different options onto your mobile. We also want to be guiding jobseekers, guiding investors in which companies to invest in etc- we want to be the indicator that influences choices, whatever they might be. We are currently working on introducing a widget to job portals so as a way of finding a company, or the company finding a candidate they can use ethical values.

-The Actics widget you talk about for companies to have on their website etc- will this also be a widget for individuals to use on their social networking sites?

Yes, you can already put the widget into your Facebook page or blog easily just through a copy/paste of our simple code, and can then get feedback from those who know you or read your blog. You can also assign weights to people’s ratings, as within any situation some people matter more than others – so you can decide whose opinions and recommendations matter more. For example the public might not be as important as your partners or your employees or whoever it might be – so what you can do is assign people a high, medium or low weight which will affect how much their rating changes your overall score.

-What are the plans now for Actics moving forwards?

We are developing a whole load of new technologies- whilst now we only have the Actics.com and the widget/ plug-in, we are getting distributed applications through Facebook which you can use as a monitor to follow your friends and your chosen companies, creating a micro plug-in/ search box on your browser instead of Google, and offering a ticker, like the stock exchange; giving the company’s ethical quote alongside their financial one.

We’re currently making it so that Actics can be integrated with your company’s help, so on-the-spot whilst you’re getting help you can also give feedback, instead of getting an email 2 days later asking if you were happy with the service!

On a personal level we are also implementing zip code alerts so that if I put up an action then everyone in that zip code will get an email about it, telling you what people are doing in your physical proximity and bringing Actics offline too. Oh-and we’re talking about integrating Actics on your mobile so you can rate a service on the spot wherever you are, giving instant feedback to experiences. So we’ve got tons of things in the pipeline!

Wow- thanks, Nicolai!

To explain the system further, the concept founders also wrote a book around the theory- as a practical novel that they use for corporate clients, but which they hope to publish to the general public soon. Contact Actics to find out how you can get your hands on a copy!

Actics.com

Filed under: evironmental insights, products with a purpose,

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