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, , , , ,

PACEMAKER DJ SYSTEM: ON AND OFFLINE MUSIC SHARING

pacemaker

Tonium, makers of the as yet to be released Pacemaker portable DJ MP3 player, have just unveiled their new online community DJ mix portal along with a free Mac/PC music editor.

The new site allows anyone to create DJ mixes of their own music collection using the Pacemaker music editor software, and then upload the mix to the Pacemaker online community, where the mix can be streamed by anyone. If the Legal section of the Pacemaker Web site is any indication, Tonium have taken great pains in making sure the music sharing service is airtight. Along with agreements Tonium has struck with international music publishing houses, the Pacemaker music editor has some built-in safety measures that prevent users from using too many tracks by any single artist. Mixes also require a minimum amount of songs before they can be uploaded.

At first glance, the free DJ music editor offered by Pacemaker is a pretty fun application on its own. Tacks can be dragged into an editing pane and then manipulated with DJ effects such as filters, delays, crossfades, and backspins. The Pacemaker audio editor supports MP3 (16Kbps to 320Kbps), AAC (8Kbps to 256Kbps), MP3 VBR, FLAC, WAV, and Ogg-Vorbis, and can calculate the song’s beats per minute automatically, to make beat-matching less of a guessing game.

“Pacemaker.net is a meeting place, a hotspot, a centrifuge and melting pot for music inspiration. By sharing our music taste with each other, we hope to bring us all closer to the music we love and closer to the music we don’t yet know we can’t live without. Let’s hear it, let’s mix!”

Once the Pacemaker hardware is released later this month, it’ll be exciting to see how the hardware, software, and Web site all integrate.

Pacemaker

Filed under: creative ideas, , ,

WOULD LONDON ELECT YOU?

londonelectsyou

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. LondonElectsYou.co.uk 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.

LondonElectsYou.co.uk

Filed under: collaborative working, , ,

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, ,

Unpackaged: Shopping As It Should Be

Forget your multi-stores banding around the words ‘eco’ or ‘green’ and giving you ‘plastic bags made from 33% recycled material’, how about going back to the good old days of community shops where products were locally-grown, packaging was scarce, and people were friendly. Unpackaged is just that; a store created to be at the heart of the community, and aiming to make environmentally-aware shopping mainstream, desirable and convenient.

unpackaged

Believing packaging to be unnecessary and wanting to sell locally direct to the community who can bring and re-use their own bags, jars and boxes, Catherine Conway created her wonderful store to show consumers that there is another way possible. As she explained, “Everyone treats consumers like they’re really stupid, as though they need all this labeling and packaging. My customers are really intelligent, they get it”. And so do the suppliers; Unpackaged buys in bulk from fair trade companies, gives preference to suppliers who are cooperatives or social enterprises, and does packaging swaps with smaller suppliers to minimize unnecessary waste.

By starting out at a stall on Exmouth Market a year ago, Catherine trialled her idea with a social enterprise grant and found a base of loyal customers happy to supply their own packaging in return for a 50p discount on each purchase and the experience of guilt-free shopping. These shoppers have followed her up the road to her more permanent address, as have a staggering amount of media folk: despite being open for a mere week, Unpackaged has already received press from BBC London TV and Radio, Radio 4, CBS, The Independent, The London Paper, and most importantly for Catherine, the two local Islington papers.

unpacked store

As part of her prototyping for the launch of the store, Catherine trialled a delivery service for local shared office space the Hub. For next year this is mutating into a very clever monthly green delivery service for local offices, which will help small companies without big ‘eco’ budgets to be as green as possible. The service will mean that once a month Unpackaged will go in and fill up all the washing-up liquid, soap, toilet paper, tea, sugar and other non-perishables with environmentally-friendly products.

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, the store itself has been brilliantly designed by creative geniuses Multistorey to give a simple but striking brand identity that completely encapsulates the ethos of the company whilst staying true to the building which itself used to be the local community dairy. What is there about this place not to love? Lets all hope that many more such stores make a return to our local communities, following the Unpackaged mantra:

Reduce by only buying what you need
Reuse by bringing your containers for a refill
Recycle what you can’t reuse

Unpackaged: 42 Amwell Street,  EC1R 1XT

Filed under: food n drink, good, search this out,

Zopa Listings: Personalised Social Lending

Zopa, the clever UK-based social lending service that enables people to lend and borrow money from each other, thereby completely redefining the traditional banking model, is about to get even more personal with the launch last night of Zopa Listings.

zopa

Currently in Beta, Zopa Listings allows borrowers to make their own specific loan listings, display their own credit information, and invite lenders to bid against their loan requirements. Within this, each Zopa listing can include a very personalised request with photos, and in the near future video, highlighting exactly what the money will be used for. Sections within listing pages include ‘Why I’m borrowing’, ‘Why I’m a safe pair of hands’ and ‘The state of my finances’, and borrowers are rated on a 5-star system displaying their credit score, affordability and stability.

Feel like lending to Drew to help finance his honeymoon to Vietnam or help SailorBoy pay for a car for his partner and new baby? Just ‘bid’ on a listing, showing how much you are prepared to lend and at what rate. These details will also appear on the listing page which , Zopa hopes, will encourage competitive bidding among lenders to offer the best rates.

This open, personalised system is not for the black coats out there, but by turning the premise of established banking on its head and putting the control back in the community, individual social lending can only go from strength to strength. As Giles Andrews, Managing Director of Zopa explained:

“Our launch comes at a time when more and more people feel let down or even failed by their bank and indeed the ‘old system’ as a whole. The results for our borrowers and lenders over the last two and a half years has proven that people are better than banks – that Social Lending can be a better alternative for people seeking to borrow, or to find a more attractive return on money they have saved. Zopa Listings adds new levels of individuality, personal control and choice, extending the appeal of this innovative alternative to the banks even further.”

Zopa

Filed under: visions of the future,

StyleShake brings bespoke fashion online

styleshakeNewly-launched online fashion site StyleShake aims to bring the art of bespoke fashion to the web, in what creator Iris Ben-David describes as a ‘UGC meets ecommerce’ fashion brand. The site enables UK users to create their own individually-designed dress from an online stable of shapes, colours and fabrics inspired by the latest catwalk trends, which is then tailor-made to their chosen size and delivered to their door in just 10 days.

For PSFK, I caught up with former new media and online advertising professional Iris, who highlighted the importance for her of building the StyleShake community which invites users to display and share their designs to be rated and critiqued by other wannabe fashion designers. Aimed at being a truly collaborative brand, Iris explained “The community has a major role. We would like our users to express themselves visually and verbally, share their ideas and thoughts. Since we see our visitors as designers we would like to hear from them what kind of ‘building blocks’ they would like to see on the next collection. They are more than welcome to email their ideas.”

Iris also emphasised that “We are making our best to make sure that our suppliers meet the ethical standard. We take great pride in the fact that we manufacture in London, not Far East sweat shops, and this also reduces our carbon footprint.”

All sounds pretty good, and for a site that sells itself on being “as close as it gets to haute couture in front of your computer” they have even created their own sizing guide, based on a calculated average from all the leading retailers and graded ‘in-house’.

Each budding designer has their own ‘designer’s page’, although with very limited information given (many are completely devoid of anything save a name), and a rather cheeky blog section which lists an array of blog titles that once clicked lead to a ‘coming soon’ page, we have to admit to feeling slightly dubious about StyleShake’s true community. However if you can believe what you read the site seems to already be successful among teen girls across the UK- though whether they go on to order their designs at £160 ($330) each is something we’d love to know. It would be great to see some real photos of the final outfits being worn, faceless mannequins just don’t do enough. And for something so pricey a decent idea of how each fabric will change the final fit and form would definitely help.

That said, the site is easy to navigate, fun to use, and with already over 1,000 unique dress designs uploaded to the gallery there is definitely a lot to inspire any budding fashionista who likes the idea of being able to declare ‘oh this thing… it’s just something I designed’!

StyleShake

Filed under: creative ideas, , ,

Toptipsforgirls- online help for sticky situations

toptipsforgirlsToptipsforgirls.com 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 vogue.co.uk 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 Toptipsforgirls.com

Filed under: collaborative working, life online, ,

Lets Green San Francisco

Picture_2_6Inhabitat has some great pictures of the grass couches that appeared around San Francisco last weekend.

Part of a series of interactive green installations celebrating the launch of letsgreenthiscity.com, a community-based website aiming to help San Franciscan businesses and individuals go green, the couches were placed at landmarks around the city.

Sponsored by Pacific Gas and Electric Company and ReadyMade magazine, the event was a clever ecologically-friendly guerrilla promotion, and looks like it was pretty successful- lets just hope people didn’t end up with grass stains!

The name of the new site expresses perfectly the dramatic swing towards environmental concerns in the public consciousness- fed up of the Pimp My Life culture; it’s time for ‘Green My Life’. Can’t wait to see MTV’s interpretation!

Filed under: collaborative working, evironmental insights,

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