‘Imperfect triers welcome’ – that’s the philosophy behind CoGo, an app that helps consumers find ethical businesses. Their website quotes a ‘zero waste chef’ who says, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”. CoGo echoes this in its message to customers – perhaps trying to show that it’s not preachy and judgmental about our decisions, but rather encouraging-yet-realistic – and therefore open to a much wider consumer base. “You don’t need to be committed to going zero-waste or vegan to join CoGo,” they write, “you just need to be looking to switch some of your purchases over to more sustainable and ethical businesses and in time, hopefully, we can help you increase the % of your spending that goes to businesses that match your values.”
The concept feels apt, partly because I’ve been working on a long feature about how social enterprises can/should respond to climate change, and a key question is whether doing the best one can given limited resources is enough – or whether doing small things just lets us off the hook making radical change. (I don’t have the answer.)Continue reading “Try this”→
Four years ago, I spent a Friday night travelling up and down the Northern Line, filming people trying to talk to strangers on the Tube.
The gathering was organised by Barbara, the sister of a Portuguese friend. Tired of Londoners burying themselves in their phones and ignoring each other, she wanted to create an offline space where people would have real-life conversations. The Tube party was a starting point; I didn’t quite get how her venture, Offline London, would work in practice or who might pay for it. But I liked the concept, liked the people, and thought filming might be fun. (It was. We were buzzing for hours afterwards.)
This post was originally published on InsightShare’s blog. For more on their participatory video work see insightshare.org, or read my reactions to their participatory video training back in 2013 here.
Laptops banned. No notebooks allowed. For those of us who like to write everything down, the instructions for the latest InsightShare course on Participatory Video for Most Significant Change were a bit daunting. How would I remember it all?
Fortunately, visualisation (lots of drawing, arranging of keywords and mind maps) and experiential learning (going through the process ourselves as participants) helps it stick. Here’s what I learned:
1. “Most Significant Change” sounds a bit fluffy, but it’s actually a recognised evaluation technique.
What do teenagers think about 8-year-olds using smartphones, or about online groups that encourage anorexia?
What do young people’s ‘stress monsters’ look like, and how do they keep them in check?
At Exposure we’ve learned about all of these things since we started producing youth-led podcasts. It’s been a lot of fun, especially when you get them into a professional recording studio. So far we’ve been hosted/supported by White City Place, a creative development in west London, and across town at Splice in Shoreditch. Continue reading “Listening in”→
Seven ways to do better live reporting from events
We’re all using social media, so there’s an assumption that anyone can also live tweet from an event. But I don’t think that’s the case, or at least, not without practice. Often conference updates feel a bit bland (so what?), or irrelevant to those who aren’t in the room, or they simply miss out a lot of opportunities.
So I attended the Nonprofit Tech for Good webinar last week on live online reporting, and learned it takes a fair bit of thought to create useful, accurate updates that add to the conversation in the room, and that are valuable long after the conference has finished. Below are some tips: Continue reading “Selfie stick optional”→
Talking about the UK education system isn’t very uplifting. Family income and where you live still seem to define how well you’re likely to do at school. In international rankings of reading, maths and science performance among 15- and 16-year-olds, little has improved despite government ambitions to make our schools among the best in the world by 2020. Meanwhile, there’s both a shortage of qualified teachers and a ever-tighter budget squeezes on the schools employing them, with almost two thirds expected to cut one or more teaching posts before September.
But another trend, said Joe Hallgarten, former director of Creative Learning and Development at the Royal Society of Arts — speaking at a recent On Purpose event — is the rise of organisations working outside or with schools. (The Charity Commission for England and Wales, for example, lists some 65,000 registered charities dedicated broadly to young people’s education.) They’re bringing writers and artists and scientists into classrooms. They’re helping kids start a business, or teaching them martial arts or philosophy. And they’re introducing them to modern-world skills like coding — “the new piano lessons”.
After ten years abroad, my friend Débora moved back to her hometown, Lisbon, last year. People there sometimes ask why she came back. Surely there are so many more opportunities abroad?
Sometimes Débora wonders why, too. After Bonn, Leipzig, Brussels, Geneva and London, it’s taking a while to adjust to the laid-back Portuguese attitude to planning, the open-ended work meetings and the buses that don’t turn up. Not to mention eating dinner so late.
It’s not only the reverse culture shock; for many returning to Portugal, there’s also a financial one, in a country where the minimum monthly wage is under EUR 600. Continue reading “Europe’s hottest hub”→
At a panel discussion last month about young people and technology, the most telling moment came towards the end, when someone in the audience raised her hand. She worked for an organisation that recruits numerous young volunteers, she told us, and one of the questions they always ask at interviews is: “What are your hobbies?”. For the first time not long ago, a 16-year-old girl had responded: “Going on my phone”.
There was a collective, sharp intake of breath among the audience, most of us of generations who remember life before the Internet. We may be just as attached to endless scrolling, and just as afflicted by powernoia as adolescents; but unlike them, we automatically think that’s a bad thing.
I recently interviewed the founders of Ugandan fintech venture Beyonic, a finalist at this year’s Sankalp Africa Awards for sustainable enterprises. Launched in 2013, they aim to eliminate dependency on cash by helping businesses quickly set up and manage mobile money payments.
Cash doesn’t allow people to become part of the formal economy; it’s also insecure and costly, explained cofounder Luke Kyohere. And while mobile money for person-to-person payments has massively taken off, businesses have yet to exploit their full potential. That’s where Beyonic comes in: making it easy for a business to pay people using existing mobile money systems. They’ve landed some big clients (including Save the Children), but also another social enterprise, Educate!. For them, paying wages and expenses with cash meant time and money spent on travel to/from Kampala, plus risk of muggings and holding huge amounts of cash on site. Educate!, when I met them in Uganda, said getting mobile payment systems in place is one of the things that’s helping them scale up.
There’s something very powerful about the idea of citizens driving change.
Because, at whatever level – from organising as a community to keep a local library open, to leading the mass protest that topples a government – it’s a reminder that we don’t need to wait for heroes to change things, just someone like you or I, who’s sufficiently pissed off to do something about it.
But even if there are some great examples of user or citizen-driven ideas (and even if ‘entrepreneur’ has become an acceptable job title for a 21-year-old), there’s no guarantee that citizens will push for changes that make for a more sustainable future. Continue reading “Shapes of the future”→