Think Forward, Act Now – Lambeth Entrepreneurs Forum

LEF for wordpress

People who knows me well, also know that my personal slogan is “Think Global, Act Local and Think Forward, Act Now”. That is my approach to everything, including economy.

Think Global, Act Local

Next Tuesday, the 2nd of June, I will be pleased to be one of the mediators of the Community Think Tank at the LEF – Lambeth Entrepreneurs Forum.

TTBWhat is it? The LEF is part of a worldwide movement Transition Town Brixton. TTB’s vision is to create a new culture of Community Supported Local Economy which fosters a resilient, independent local economy that supplies the real needs of local people, builds connections, creates new local livelihoods and keeps wealth local.

TTB’s co-founder Duncan Law has said:

Duncan“TTB wants to unable the community to invest all sorts of resources, from money through childcare to moral support, in creating and keeping the local economy we’d like to see.

We want to build a community of Lambeth local investors that understands the benefit of investing local and ensuring a vibrant, diverse local economy that is able to ultimately compete with the big corporates”

Think Forward, Act Now

library-of-things-logoWe all know that startups, whatever their nature is, need to go lean and go fast.

During tkitchentablehe LEF, five selected social enterprises will pitch to their local community with the aim ofpledging to invest money, but also time, resources, skills, enthusiasm, Facebook likes, hugs, and basically any other kind of support.

graingrocerThe Community Think Tank will be in the afternoon, together with a Pitch and Pledge session with the selected social enterprises, such as The Kitchen Table Projects, The Grain Grocer, Spiral, The Library of Things.

Networking (+ food!)

LEF speechbubble LogoThe LEF will also be a networking opportunity for local entrepreneurs, investors, decision-makers, and residents, and for all to have a part to play in having the kind of local economy they want to see in Lambeth and in the world.

Last but not least, there will be locally sourced food as well as beer especially brewed for the event by Brixton Brewery!

I will be very pleased to see entrepreneurs, investors and local people networking and fostering the Lambeth local economy. I would also like to know what are the insights of the Tech scene about the event and if it is something that might be replicated in other boroughs or towns.

Tickets are still available at www.lambethlef.eventbrite.co.uk.

Advertisements

8 Women can help me to solve my Enigma

Joan_Clarke_(cryptanalyst)I just watched “The Imitation Game” by Morten Tyldum.

I am not going to positively or negatively criticise it: we all know that it doesn’t tell the real story of Alan Turing. Or, it tells it in a soft and cinematic way.

However, it made me think of Joan Clarke and how women can be smart, great problem solvers and still feminine at the same time, how their working behind the scenes is often fundamental. So then I started reflecting about my past couple of weeks.

I subscribed to Ada’s List about a month ago. After a couple of days that I lost my job, at the beginning of February, I wrote a message to the googlegroups, telling my story. It was about the second ever message I wrote to the group, after the introduction post. The message was short, as my intention was only asking if someone knew someone else who was looking for a digital strategist or entry roles in marketing and community engagement.

In 3 weeks I didn’t find a full time job: I found much more.

I found strong, smart, competent and powerful women ready to give me a hand without knowing me, not even virtually.

katKat Farrants is the founder of Movement For Modern Life, a platform for yoga lectures in streaming. She was also the first lady that welcomed me into the list, and the first who wrote me after reading my message. She gave me some freelance graphic design work to do (I am not a “professional” graphic designer, and also I know that on Fiverr she could have found someone cheaper for sure) for her communication campaign.

euniceEunice Ball, founder of Africa Technology Business Network (forum designed to build a bridge between the tech communities in the UK and Africa) was the second lady that sent me a message after my first introduction, and the second to reply to my unemployment message. She got me a free ticket for her event “Unlocking opportunities in Africa through business and technology” and also asked me to speak at “Learning From Your Mistakes #FounderStories” , a meetup of The Pulse next Tuesday.

anaAna Alberts is the founder of Charub.org, an app that lets users select businesses to advertise on their personal social profiles; for each click on the advert the businesses give money to the charities chosen by the user. Brilliant, isn’t it? Ana offered to fund my ticket for the +SocialGood UK Summit by Mashable, as I couldn’t afford it but I was very interested in the event; in exchange for the huge favour I will help her with Charub’s content strategy (and I am excited about it!).

iramIram Quraishi, the Project Manager of Loop Labs, got in contact with me through another amazing list member, Katz Kiely. Loop Labs create digital solutions to city challenges through Experience Design, and since a week I am their part-time intern. They got me on board even if they knew that I will go on with my job hunt. It’s really impressive. I am working on the content strategy and community engagement with Kabelo Thomo and Graham Brown-Martin of a very challenging and innovative project which will bring science and innovation into local communities through Experience Design. Follow us to know more 😉

Ada’s List is really an amazing network full of AWESOME ladies. I receive the Daily Digest and, trust me, I open it every day. I have never done it before with any other Daily Digest.

In addition, during the past week I got in contact with other four young, multitasking and professional ladies that demonstrated me attention and care, even if they didn’t really know me: Silvija Jordanovska of TechMeetups (a global network of Tech Startup communities), Sinead Mac Manus of Fluency*, Yasmin Desai of Monkfeet** and Erika Brodnock of KarismaKidz***.

silvija

I dropped Silvija an email about a week ago, telling her that I was willing to give her a hand for the event she was organising last Thursday, the “TechStartups Jobs Fair” (#TSJFair), even if I could have only helped her during the event, because during the afternoon I would have been at another event (see below). When I arrived on location she welcomed me with a big smile, the same smile that said “see you later” to me when I left 🙂 . Letting me tweeting about the event got me many contacts and followers, so, in a way, it’s actually Silvija that helped me.

sinead

*One of the participant to the Tech Startups Job Fair was Fluency, which offers four-week courses to young people in areas like social media marketing, SEO, content marketing, web analytics and more. Its founder, Sinead, is also part of Ada’s List. I presented myself saying that I was Francesca from the list, and she remembered my email about my lost job. She was extremely kind and empathic, even if she never met me before as well. Impressive.
Yaz D**Monkfeet offers high quality courses, workshops and meetings about business, corporate, startups, SEO and other professional topics. About a month ago I participated to “How To Make A Professional Corporate Video With Your iPhone“. After the lesson the instructor uploaded some resource materials and I got an email from Monkfeet, but there were some issues with the interface, so I tweeted to Monkfeet just to warn them about that issue. They were very grateful and kind to me and also told me that they were willing to help me in any ways, as an exchange for a tweet! People are amazing. Last Tuesday I went to their (+ Rainmaking Loft‘s) “Investors On Stage with Federico Pirzio-Biroli of Playfair Capital“, another very interesting event, and I was so happy to find out that behind of Monkfeet there was actually a woman, Yasmin! She was super kind and told me to send her my CV, so if she will hear about startups hiring she will contact me. Again: she doesn’t really know me. It’s incredible how women can be so open and welcoming.

Erika_cropped-300x300

***Finally, on Thursday afternoon I went to KPTG‘ s “Best of British Mobile Startups“, where I found out about Karisma Kidz, a fabulous app aiming at developing emotional intelligence in children aged 3-9. I saw the presentation by its founder, Erika, and immediately felt her confidence an power, as well as her femininity and kindness. I went to speak with her to congratulate with her, and she asked me my contacts for future collaborations. It might not end with anything, but for me it was a honour.

So, yeah. I am still looking for a full-time job. My Enigma to solve is how to find a job before the beginning of March, and I am starting to be worried.

Nevertheless, all those women of different ages and at different stages of their career gave me a great strength and inspired me to go on and do not give up.

Thank you, beautiful ladies.

Turning 29 in #LDN during the age of #Unemployment and #TechCity

keep-calm-youre-only-29-10Hi everyone!

Yes, it has been a long time. Precisely, 20 months and 12 days since my last post. Wow!

I don’t particularly like blogging (you can easily get that). I mean, I am an active subscriber to many, and I am a Digital Strategist aspiring to become a Growth Hacker. Let me rephrase that: I do not really like writing blog posts.

Today (well, yesterday, actually, the 8th) was my 29th birthday. 29 is usually an awful number. It is almost 30, although it is not really 30 yet, but it is still “getting there”. So you basically feel older than you actually are.

For me it has been a week of revelation, though.

On Monday I lost my job. It wasn’t a “proper” job, as we immigrants are used to say. It was an Internship, but, still: I had a 3The-Lean-Startup months contract with an early stage startup, which ended up to be a less-than-a month job.

It was not the first startup I was working for, and, anyway, I have been studying and researching on startups for ages. So, yes, I know that “most start-ups fail” and “most new products are not successful”. But, also, I knew that “the story of perseverance, creative genius, and hard work persists”, so I thought that my startup would have gone on (E.Ries, 2012).

It did not. It was a kind of a shock for me (and my colleagues, too).

Straight after that I basically had 2 choices: either get drunk or stay positive. This time I chose to stay positive.

iyaffullorigcoloursMy choice was probably helped by 2 fresh experiences of mine: mentoring the MACE Students at a workshop in collaboration with the International Youth Arts Festival, and an introduction course on coaching held by the Coaching Academy.

What did I do in order to stay positive?

1 – I spent the first two days on “market research” (job hunting, of course).

2 – Once I got to know which job adverts suited me, according to my skills, I started to make a massive research about the companies that were looking for those skills.

3 – I made a selection of those companies, mainly using as terms of evaluation each company and members’ (founders and directors) expertise, core focus and USP, because “as you climb the ladder of success, be sure it’s leaning against the right building” (H. Jackson Brown, JrI – or probably Anonymous, but, still, the quote gives you the idea).

4 – I picked each company one by one and went further into my research, trying to get as many information as possible from wherever on the web.guerrilla markting

5 – I wrote customised cover letters. When I say “customised” I do not mean just changing the names on the recipient. That is what many companies do when they send emails and, frankly, I, as a customer, I feel like they assume that I am an idiot. Anyway, of course part of the contents were the same – I am still the same person with the same skills and experience  -. In a way, I took that particular task as if I was trying to get my customers’ attention. I am a Guerrilla Marketing passionate, so I even used some of its methods to write my cover letters.Last, but not least, I was completely honest.

Many people told me that in applications you have to “fake” it a little bit. Because…everybody does that, so every employer expects that you actually “pimp” your CV. Well, I have never felt comfortable with that. So I actually never did it, but I guess I did it a bit in my cover letters, apart from last week. Last week I was completely natural and honest.

OLD STREET ROUNDABOUT6 – In less than 1 week I got 3 interview out of 5 applications to Tech City startup jobs that I completed. You might think that it is a small number, but it took me more than 3 hours between researching, coming up with each cover letter, and actually click on “send”.

I have no idea if those companies will take me on board. I mean, I made probably a great impression, but sometimes it is not enough.

However, I am so happy. I am still unemployed, and very conscious about that (I am not going to book any holiday at the Hawaii Islands, for instance), but I am very confident that London will give me a job (aka internship, which for me is still a job) in less than 2 weeks. It might not, but , as Walter Cronkite said, “success is more permanent when you achieve it without destroying your principles”. My strongest principle above all is honesty.

FROM A PASSION TO A BUSINESS

The beginning

In January 2012 I moved to London. I had a flexible contract as a sales assistant with a minimum wage salary. I barely had enough money to pay the rent and the transport expenses. Ergo I could never eat out.

It was the official start of my baking experimentations. I occupied all my spare time to cook, thus I became more and more expert and, with my surprise, even creative at baking: I had ever thought that who was creative at such a mysterious art should have been born like that. Finding myself under the same definition made me really passionate.

I couldn’t imagine that such a passion could have been so strong to drive me and my team into my first business experience.

In October 2012 I was admitted at the MA Creative Economy at Kingston University; we had just formed the Young Enterprise teams, and we were actually registering each team on website.

Solve a Need from The LeanEntrepreneur.co

As business teams we were supposed to create something which could solve a problem we encountered or observed in our living context.

A couple of days before, I was preparing the dinner. I was about to struggle trying to stir the risotto and then putting the spoon in the balance on the border of the pot, in order not to smear the kitchen surface. I failed: the tool stayed in its position for a while, but then it fell every time.

I thought that maybe many women like me had the same; therefore I sketched a spoon hanger which could be attached to the border of a pot. I showed it to my team mate Maria: she found it a clever idea, and push me to speak with the others, Lucy, Natalie and Angelika. They liked it so much that as soon as I proposed to call ourselves “The Spoonist” they eagerly agreed.

The observation

During our first meeting we started discussing about the brand. We decided to change our name in QB- quanto basta, which means just as much as needed, and is a typical kitchen unit used in traditional recipes.

That was the same day of our first “observation”:  I was cooking for all of us, and the team examined the difficulties I encountered.

RESEARCH-FIRSTWith hindsight, if customers experience is what shapes all perceptions and value of the brand, as Bernd  Schmitt and David Rogers underline in their “Handbook on Brand and Experience Management” it would have been better to observe external people cooking, ask them questions and not even name our idea of the product. Just afterwards it would have been appropriate to start to brainstorm ideas about the brand, embracing a “holistic view of costumer value that encompasses rational and emotional benefits” (SCHMITT, ROGERS, 2008).

After a couple of weeks we found many competitors, and we realized we couldn’t effort the costs of the materials as well- that was another conceptual fault: we wanted to make a product made by expensive wood, but the reason we wished that was justified just by our perspective, without any proper market research.

Since we were already so immersed into our brand, we found more difficult to adjust our product rather than restart from the beginning, even if this is exactly what a startup should expect most of the times. As Eric Ries sustains, “instead of making complex plans that are based on a lot of assumptions”, exactly like what we did, we should have made” constant adjustments with a steering wheel called Build- Measure- Learn feedback loop” (RIES, 2011). We didn’t didn’t apply Ries’ validated learning at all, and this is probably why therefore we repeated the same error.

 A New Idea

When I was a sales assistant I had a minimum wage salary; as I was also attentive to eat healthy, I started to cook my own lunch at home. Being an environmental friendly person, I hated wasting the plastic bags I used to carry my lunch: so with my boyfriend Aldo I designed a lunch bag. Since QB was in need of a new idea, I proposed it and the team was enthusiastic.

I was sure there was a need of the product in the market. I noticed that almost every Londoner used to buy meals around. I made some researches online and luckily I found many statistics regarding a high amount of expenses per capita for lunch out, other than alarming articles on the dubious healthiness of take away and fast food meals.

We started brainstorming about product development. Lucy made a model out of fabric: by the end of November we were the first team which had a prototype. Nevertheless we repeated the same mistake: we didn’t follow Steve Blank’s Customer Development. We didn’t “get out of the building” before creating the brand and defining our persona. We should have tested our product from the very beginning with just a sketch, to find out whether our lunch bag was “a vision or a delusion”. (RIES, 2008).

Blue Ocean and Experience Design

Ask Your Market from The LeanEntrepreneur.co
As long as we didn’t create a new product- there were already different lunch bags on the marketplace-, from a first sigh it couldn’t have been told we developed any Blue Ocean strategy.

Actually, I noticed that people liked the idea of bringing their own lunch, but many of them were not capable to cook or were lack of meals ideas. The Internet was already full of blogs about food and recipes, nevertheless I saw an opportunity. According to the case of the Cirque du Soleil, which, “breaking through the boundary traditionally separating circus and theatre, made a new and profitable blue ocean from within the red ocean of the circus industry”, I realized that we could act in little like a Blue Ocean company by matching the food-blogosphere with the bags market. (KIM, MAUBORGNE, 2004)

I proposed to publish on our website simple recipes not for every visitor: just for our customers. Following the rules of the Experience Design Manifesto, our aim was to make people more confident of their capability of cooking, to inspire them and feel better. We wanted to transmit them the importance of a healthy and environmental-friendly lifestyle, but also make them have fun while baking. Last but not least, our recipes sharing community was aimed to “strengthen relationships between people that live the same experience” as well. (PEREIRA, 2008)

 Design Thinking

It was Natalie who insisted on “less is better”. She was really pragmatic. I was the exact opposite, I wanted to add dozens of features to our lunch bag. While exploring Design Thinking, I discovered how much what Natalie sustained made sense. We followed her.

Our idea was respecting almost all of the 10 rules of Design Thinking. It was innovative: it matched the food blogosphere and the bags market; useful: well, at least we assumed that; aesthetic: it was functional and beautiful at the same time; understandable: it reminded the paper brown bag of the childhood, so it was “already seen”; honest: it was what it seemed; long-lasting and environmental- friendly: it was washable, reusable and an alternative to plastic bags; simple, with the pleasure of Natalie: our final design was just a sack with a ribbon to close it. (RILEY, 2013)

Fail

Never Force the Market from The LeanEntrepreneur.co

As we assumed our target was composed of students, considering they have to eat lunch at University and usually they have little money to spend, Natalie and Maria went to interview some of the potential customers. The result of our first official market research was a disaster: almost every people declared they weren’t interested neither in our product nor in the community. Some others said they weren’t willing to pay the price we set.

Many startups like us are mistaken at this step.  They “fail for lack of customers”, because they don’t “attempt to learn about their customers (or potential customers) until it is too late”. (RIES, 2008)

Luckily we were not that late in the process- it was still December- so we completely changed our target into female office workers between 25 and 40. For the third time we didn’t go out of the building before going on with the plan. We assumed. We didn’t clearly understand that customer development wouldn’t have been “an excuse to slow down or change the plan every day” but “an attempt to minimize the risk of total failure by checking” our “theories against reality”. (RIES, 2008).

Challenges

In December Lucy left us due to personal reasons. She was the leader not because she was the official Manager of the team. As Diego Rodriguez wrote on his blog, she “made the difference by acting”. Since the beginning she acted “on what she knew”– branding and product design- and “felt it was right”. (RODRIGUEZ, 2013) She was the only member who was already working in a business. As a startup, we were living in a state of “extremely uncertainty”, and this meant that the entire project could have easily failed. (RIES, 2011) Lucy was willing to risk her personal reputation for the good of QB. That is why we got lost for a while after her departure.

Angelika became the new leader. We had two urgencies at that time: getting both the product and the website done. Lucy had already found a manufacturer who apparently was interested in making our lunch bag, thus Angelika, Maria and Natalie tried to contact him and had a long journey in the Warwickshire to visit the factory.

Since I was the only team member who knew something about graphics and webdesign, I decided to take care of the website. I bought the domain, installed wordpress and started creating my own child theme during my spare time- I had already a full-time job. Although the huge number of forums, tutorials and communities of developers, it has been an extremely hard work. I assumed to publish it in 3 weeks: it took 3 months. The final version was online at the end of March.

In the meanwhile our manufacturer disappeared. Angelika and Maria tried to call him many times, but in the end he wasn’t interested in our business any more. It was February. The first trade fair we were supposed to attend was at the end of the month. That meant we had to sew the bags ourselves. From a Blue Ocean strategy point of view it wasn’t that bad: by sewing the bags on our own we managed to make the product low-cost.

Angelika went to Lucy’s to learn how to sew, and took her sewing machine. We passed entire days sewing all together at Angelika’s – she spent even more time -, and for the end of we had almost 20 products done, and finally started to sell.

Personal Epic Fails

The extreme delays of both the manufacturing and the website availability postponed our social media presence. In other words, to get our product and service done in the best way, we diverted our attention from the relationship with customers to the design and production. Instead of accelerating the feedback loop Build-Measure-Learn of “The Lean Startup”, we retarded it.

As a consequence, our sharing community actually never worked. It was mainly my fault. Even though I was supposed to be the most expert of the team in Social Media, I lost myself designing the website. I wanted it to be perfect.

In many of his speeches about customer development, Steve Blank underlined that the unfortunately diffused approach “build it and they will come” is largely wrong, because “issues are customer acceptance and market adoption”. (BLANK, 2008)

Social Media is today’s most effective channel to speak with potential customers and to test assumptions in order to accelerate the feedback loop. Nevertheless I moved it completely to the background.

Working on the website made me forget the impulse which should drive every startup: passion. Passion and Love are the first two secrets of success. I had both of them at the beginning. The story I told you speaks for me. Before developing  the website, I used to create many recipes and took pictures of them. After that I just wanted to get rid of it, because I was working hard, yet I wasn’t enjoying it. (JOHN, 2005)  

My team could felt that my enthusiasm was lowering, and that effected it as well. I wasn’t the leader, but I was the core: the lunch bag was my creature. I didn’t motivate my team; I became even negative and dubious about the future of QB.

Lessons for the future

QB was my first startup experience. It was the first business project I have ever been involved with. I never learned more from a University project than at MACE. To be sincere I wasn’t so used to fail. Thanks to Quanto Basta I became able to accept my faults. Moreover, it’s not all about admitting mistakes.  The best learning I am putting in my pocket is the 8th rule of success: persist. Persist to failure and to Criticism, Rejection, Assholes and Pressure (CRAP). And never give up.

References

(BLANK, 2008) Steve Gary Blank, “The Customer Development Methodology”, slideshare presentation for Stanford Technology Venture Program’s Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education, published by Venture Hacks, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://www.slideshare.net/venturehacks/customer-development-methodology-presentation

(BLANK, 2008) Steve Gary Blank, “The Four Steps to the Ephiphany- Successful Strategies for Products that Win”, Third Edition, 2006, pdf file published by Lulu.com

(BRAZ, 2008) Andre Pereira das Neves Braz, “Experience Design Manifesto”, 2008, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://www.brazandre.com/manifesto/

(JOHN, 2005) Richard St. John, “8 secrets of success”, February 2005, published by TED Talks in December 2006, last access 23/05/13, available at http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_st_john_s_8_secrets_of_success.html

(KIM, MAUBORGNE, 2004) W. Chan Kim, Renée Mauborgne, “Blue Ocean Strategy”, Harvard Business Review, October 2004, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://hbr.org/2004/10/blue-ocean-strategy/ar/1

(LANDBERG, 2003) Max Landberg, “The Tao of coaching: boost your effectiveness at work by inspiring and developing those around you “, Profilebooks, 2003

(RIES, 2011) Eric Ries, “The Lean Startup”, Portfolio Penguin, 2011

(RIES, 2008) Eric Ries, “What is customer development?”  , Startup Lesson Learned, 8 November 2008, last visit on 22/05/13, available at http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2008/11/what-is-customer-development.html

(RILEY, 2013) Wells Riley, “Startups, this is how design works”, 2013, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://startupsthisishowdesignworks.com/

(RODRIGUEZ, 2013) Diego Rodriguez, “The heart of leadership”, Metacool- thoughts on the art & science of bringing cool stuff to life, 01 May 2013, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://metacool.typepad.com/metacool/2013/05/the-heart-of-leadership.html

(SCHMITT, ROGERS, 2008), Bernd H. Schmitt, David L. Rogers, “Handbook on Brand and Experience Management”, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013

Bibliography

Babak Nivi, “Customer Development: How to develop your customers like you develop your product”, Venture Hacks, November 5th 2008, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://venturehacks.com/articles/customer-development

IBM, “The new collaboration: enabling innovation, changing the workplace”, IBM Corporation, 2008

Mirko Pallera, “CREATE!”, Sperling & Kupfler Editori S.p.A, 2012

Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean In”, WH Allen, 2013

Steve Blank, “Embrace failure to start up success- An ambitious US programme aims to turn scientists into entrepreneurs.Go on, says Steve Blank, unleash your inner capitalist.”, NATURE International weekly journal of science, World View, A personal take on events, 8 SEPTEMBER 2011, VOL 477, 133, Macmillan Publishers Limited, last access on 23/05/13, available online at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/070911/full/477133a.html

Theodore Levitt, “Marketing Myopia”, 1960, in Best of HBR, July-August 2004

Tony Robbins, “Why we do what we do”, TED Talks, filmed February 2006, posted June 2006, last access 23/05/13, available at http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_robbins_asks_why_we_do_what_we_do.html

A Space for Creative Cooperation and Innovative Communities

On the 1st and the 2nd of May I had a great opportunity to help a charity.

I volunteered for the 3space Re:Think Festival at the 3space Blackfriars Hub. If you know 3space you should ask me “which charity”. If not, probably you shall need some explanations.

3spaceentrance3space, as it can be read on its website, is an extremely innovative charity which “unlocks the potential of empty commercial properties by making them available for temporary community use”. Its novelty lies on the business model: the organization makes agreements with landlords and offers to charities and social enterprises temporary free access to properties which otherwise would be empty and not utilized. It generates a virtuous circle: the landlords benefit because they not only increase their reputation, but also keep the property in use, so it doesn’t get old – it remains on the market as well, so they don’t loose potential sales; the charities benefit for a free space to use as their office, or as a base for pop-up projects; finally the community benefits because of the work and the initiatives of the charities.

It is to tell that 3space was included in the list of Britain’s 50 New radicals 2012, and nominated at Smarta100 as well. So it is definitely an organization which has something to teach.

ReTHINK%20880The Re:Think Festival hosted more than 50 charities and social enterprises. For 3 days it has been a place full of great insights, art, social care, civilization initiative…a world of possibilities. Just to name some of the guests – you can find more information on the Re:Think websiteThe Edible Bus Stop, which transforms neglected sites across London’s bus network into valuable community growing spaces: Sustrans, which develops practical, cost-effective initiatives that enable many more people to travel by foot, bike or public transport; The Living Furniture Project, which employs and trains homeless to make beautiful up-cycled – and so sustainable, waste-reducing and uniquefurniture; make: good, which designs community public spaces with the communities, and has an innovative approach from the engaging to the activities it organizes in the places.

As I said I volunteered, but I shall admit that I barely did a few to help the charity: I just had to check that every room of my section had every tool and device on the list, and control the timing in order not to encounter delays during the scheduled activities. Other than this, I actually attended the workshops.

The most uplifting meetings I attended were three: Community space for making items from waste materials, Rethinking Housing, and Pop Up Meet Up.

Remakery-Brixton-image

 

The first workshop I mentioned was headed by The Remakery, an innovative social enterprise which I was happily surprised to find settled in my borough, Brixton. It converted a disused underground car-park into a co-working and educational space for up-cycling items. The staff- all volunteers – renovated the site using a community self-build method. The Remakery offers many services like memberships for co-workers (including the usage of all the materials, not only the space) and for suppliers, service users and sponsors / donors; they will open a remakers store where they will sell affordable re-used materials for DIY, gardening, art, design and crafts; parts of the site would be available to be hired for events and training programmes related to reuse, skills and sustainability; last but not least The Remakery organizes workshops and training courses for the community.

rationalhouse

 During the Rethinking Housing talk my attention was attracted by City House Projects and especially the Rational House. It is a new family city residence in Hammersmith which match quality with sustainability, comparing different house models from different parts of the world, contextualizing them, considering the urban character and the density of population within the area. The design of the Rational House is made to be flexible and scalable, in order to be a family house, a flat, a block of offices or workshops, or spaces for commercial uses.

marylebonegardens

 At the Pop Up Meet Up I discovered two interesting and clever projects, Theatre Delicatessen and The Shop Revolution. The first one is a charity which transforms disused buildings into creative hubs that provide a live space for artists; secondly it supports emerging theatre artists by providing space for them to develop ideas and share new work, offering them advice, mentoring and assistance in realising their productions. As an example, they brought to a new life the former offices of BBC London at 35 Marylebone High Street, and transformed them into their current – and wonderful – location, Marylebone Gardens.

loveurlook

 Similarly to 3space, The Shop Revolution offers to landlords an opportunity of short-term leases of their properties which prevent the places to get old between tenants, but instead of being given to charities and social enterprises, they are transformed into pop up businesses and organizations. The project has been tested through three 4 weeks – shops during the 2012 Christmas period in the areas of Sydenham, Kirkdale, and Forest Hill, then seven between January and May 2013.

I do believe that all those projects are examples of disrupting businesses because they are a great efficient mix of:

  • Sharing knowledge, capabilities, properties, ideas, collaborations;
  • Local communities – driven projects, from the design to the realization, from the usage to the training and to the activities made by and for the community itself;
  • Reuse and transformation of empty buildings and waste materials;
  • Economic and Environmental Sustainability;
  • Scalability.

 Many thanks should be told to 3space: other than responding to all those characteristics, it is an aggregator of brilliant organizations as well: it generates an echo which I hope will continue to reverberate for long.

A Disruptive Game For All

When I did my Bachelor’s in Science and Technology of Music Communication for my Final Research Project I studied Virtual Words and Games. At that time the Department of Informatics and Communication of my University – University of Milan – was renting a section of an isle on Second Life, so I had the opportunity to support my research with an experimental approach:  I designed and set up a live music pub.

During my analysis I was able to observe the behaviour of the citizens of the virtual world. It is neither the moment nor the occasion to explain what I found out, however I would like to deliver your attention on one result which influenced all my following researches: people need to share.

In November 2012 I hosted for a couple of days in my tidy house in London my tutor of that Final Research Project, Ines Di Loreto. Even if our paths have been separated since my Bachelor’s Degree, I found that our idea of the importance of sharing delivered us to similar ways.

h&p Besides being a Temporary Research Associate at NTNU of Trondheim (Norway), Ines is a co-founder of a Start-up, NaturalPad (the English version of the website should be ready for the end of the month).  They designed an extremely innovative Health Game, Hammer & Planks. On the market place it is possible to find numerous Serious Games for Health, usually focused on a particular sector like rehabilitation (Mojos), prevention (Science Pirates), stress relief (MindHabits), medicine training (Pulse!!) and chronic illness understanding (l’affaire Birman).

The effectiveness of Health Games could be found in several different features:

1)      Health Games are motivational. The interactivity, the personalization of the characters and moreover the goals they players should reach keep their attention and enthusiasm up. The feedback they receive at the end of every “match” conducts them to continue with their exercises.

2)      Health Games track the progress of the patient/player. Due to the recorded data of the game for the therapist/ doctor is easy to analyse the results and recognize the improvements of the therapy.

3)      Health Games are low-cost. Instead of going to the clinic or hospital for the therapy, the patient can play from home with technologies which are present in almost every houses, like pc, laptops and tablets.

As I said, I am attracted from the sharing aspects of games and so, in this case, health games.

HammerPlanks-0There are a few examples of this feature on the market place, like Zamzee, an obesity-fighting game, or simply the Wii and other devices which stimulate a healthier lifestyle while giving people the opportunity to play, compete and have fun together.

Comparing Hammer & Planks to all this different examples of Health Games, its novelty lies in its model itself: although it is a game for people with balance disorders, especially hemiplegics, NaturalPad designed the game following the inclusiveness tendency. According to Pascal Schmidt’s speech “How to reach masses”at Games for Health Europe in November 2012, Health Games need to reach more users, to enlarge their market and become more profitable.

What NaturalPad simply did was

  • making the structure flexible in order to be adaptable ways of interation;
  • realizing a funny, well-designed and absorbing game that can be enjoyed by everyone, even healthy users, using the classical process of game enterprises, and not the one of Health Games enterprises;
  • developing the game for most of the platforms that are on the market place, like computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet, Wii, Kinect,  gamepad and joypad.

Those features make Hammer & Planks a great game to play with friends, because it potentially includes almost every kind of player. It is a challenge that everyone can face.

naturalpadDuring the MIG (Montpellier in Game) NaturalPad presented and tested his game, and had more than 700 visitors between healthy and unhealthy players in two days. To aggregate the gamers they created a generic leaderboard and launched as the final price one license of the game. The experimentation actually worked and almost every user played for the score and enjoyed the competition, no matter if they were “fighting” with people with or without disease. The sharing need took overall priority.

Finally I consider Hammer & Planks as a great example of disruptive Health Game, because it is enlarging its market to many new users, and in this way it is a great opportunity for investors as well.

Chairs, aid kits and websites

design-museum

On a rainy Sunday a couple of weeks ago I decided it was the time to see the Design Museum. Plus, I found that there was the Design of the Year exhibition: I couldn’t loose such a great opportunity to see the tendencies of the contemporary design, and whether they are applying or not design thinking.

Well, to be sincere, from an overall view, I would say not all of them. I selected three above all to write about.

Starting with the less impressive, the winner of the furniture price was the Medici Chair by Konstantin Grcic for the Italian brand Mattiazzi. I am not expert, of course, but I am really interested in up-cycling and in general in new designs made from recycled materials or just old designs revisited and referred in order to satisfy new needs.

medici chair

Personally I don’t see  the Medici Chair as  a particularly innovative product. If I have to choose other designs of Grcic, I definitely would go for the B Bench for BD Barcelona Design, which is a much more clever and innovative product: it is not just a bench, but a bench system. It revisits the past by using the 1929 crossing legs, but is also developing a modular system. Konstantin himself says that “design is not about inventing new things all the time – design is an evolution of things. We have created a kit of parts which can be changed into very different typologies” [ETHERINGTON, 2013 ]. Regarding the brand Mattiazzi, I personally would prefer the Fionda chair by Jasper Morrison, which is clearly inspired by the classic camping chair, normally aluminium or iron-legged: Morrison simply replaced them with wood legs, and created a comfortable, unusual, space-saving indoors chair.

kit yamoyoThe best product was the Kit Yamoyo designed by ColaLife and PI Global, and it is a very clever idea. They designed an aid kit to help prevent and cure diarrhoea , and the great particularity of the product is that it can be perfectly nestled between Coca-Cola bottles. As the famous drink is sold everywhere, even in developing countries, ColaLife designed the Kit Yamoyo to bring medicine to remote locations through Coca Cola’s distribution. I do believe it is a great idea. It is design thinking because it tries to solve a problem, but in a way which is not invasive nor forced. It uses something which is already in the daily life of the people, but to bringing them a solution of one of their biggest problems, without almost telling them. Amazing.

Gov.ukThe overall winner was the gov.uk website. Well, I am not a web designer. I am not (yet) an official UK citizen neither. But I am an user, and quite an expert one: I surf a lot on the Internet, and I have some expectations from the websites. They should be clear, easy, clean, functional and beautiful, because looks also count. I don’t like the gov.uk website. The homepage is full of text and links, where I would have put buttons or a menu. I like the idea of putting all the Ministerial departments in one place, but the box containing them is totally out of context for the colours and the style. In general the page is too long to scroll down, and too full of links. I read many articles about this website. I perfectly understand that it can be seen innovative for the fact that they digitized every information the citizens might need. But frankly I do believe that they should have thought not only about which services to provide, but also how to present them,  because presentation is a form of communication, and we live in a extremely communicating world. To sum up, personally I can’t see the extreme value for the Design in gov.uk. Please keep in mind that this is my humble opinion, and that I am not judging the contents but just the appearance and the functionality. Feel free to leave some comments whether you agree or not.

If you would like to know more about the prices, the winners and the nominations, I suggest you to have a look at the Design Museum website.