community Environment Projects I like Social Innovation

Gate Crashing the Energy Sector

Sometimes things need to get shaken up. Switched around. Reinvented.

The energy sector happens to be one of these things. For too long many people have accepted their provision of energy as something that’s untouchable and something that must remain the way it is. The type of energy we use is another aspect of the sector that people don’t really think twice about. We’re so dependent on oil for fuel that we forget that there is or can be a better way.

There are of course, a few pioneers, setting off on their journey of disruption. Places like 1bog and the Carbon Co-op help neighbourhoods purchase renewables collectively, lowering the cost of the technology but also allowing for the communities to control their own energy creation and monitor the demand. There are many more ideas like this out there and this is why I’m very excited to  be helping Forum For The Future out with their new project: Gatecrash the energy sector.

Here’s some more info:

Gatecrashing the energy sector is about creating a sustainable energy system and prevent the worst impacts of climate change.  We need to urgently develop radically different ways of generating, distributing, storing and using energy.

History shows us that real disruption rarely comes from within a system and the energy sector in the UK is currently dominated by powerful incumbents, the majority of whom are wedded to the current system. So, we are embarking on an exciting new project to invite people to ‘gatecrash’ the energy sector and create disruption by bringing expertise and ideas from outside.

Over the next 5 months we will be bringing together people from a range of disciplines and organisations to generate new ideas and prototype alternatives to current systems. We are reaching out to anyone with an interest in creating disruption in the energy sector; from multinational ICT companies and home tinkerers to social entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Through a series of events and prototyping workshops we hope to generate and support alternatives.Our aim is to produce 3-4 projects that we can showcase in 2011 – these might be working prototypes or detailed business plans but will be at a stage where they can been seen as genuine alternatives to current systems. The conversations have begun with people wanting to get involved and we will hold the first of a series of events in September.

If you’d like to be a part of it, please contact Gemma Adams g [dot] adams (AT) forumforthefuture [dot] org or Hugh Knowles h [dot] knowles (AT) forumforthefuture [dot] org. More information can be found on Forum’s website and you can keep up to date with the project @lightbulbmoment on Twitter.


Get Wired Roundup

On a beautifully sunny afternoon a couple weeks a go, some of the SI Camp team, alongside students, service designers, web developers and creative types ventured to Downham Market for a day of social innovation. The purpose of the day was to create and develop new ideas for the Downham area that would make it a better place to live for young people in the community. Joined by several members of the King Lynn and Westnorfolk council, some 35 people worked on 4 ideas, that were born from a morning brainstorming session.

Get there

Get there is a better ways of co-ordinating transport for young people getting around the area. The idea was to centre transport around activities so people could lift share and make it easier to get around. A young person could use their social network to find out where friends are going and when. It’s kind of like Dopplr but for young people in a community

Building Futures

Quite often when a planning notification goes up in a community, people don’t know about it, or have any say in the proposed development. The premise behind Building Futures is creating a platform where members of the community can have input into the consultation process and in planning projects. Citizens could vote on propsed ideas and enter some of their own for an area.


This idea was a way for young people to find out what’s going on in their local area as well as create events and things to do. Both web and mobile based young people can find out what’s happening. AreUbored was able to present a demo during the presentations of their texting service.

Good Job

It’s really hard for young people to find work, and even harder in a small community. Good Job is a platform that allowed young people to find odd jobs like painting, cleaning, building a shed, and other work. Young people can earn some cash while connecting different generations of people. The idea explored an ebay like rating system for young people who complete jobs to serve as a reference and encourage others to hire young people for help.

A big thanks to all of the participants, the Young Foundation and King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Council for making the day a success. Special thanks to Unboxed Consulting for sending along members of their development team, Chris Brooker from the University of West England for rallying together his design students but also for making the journey all the way from Bristol and to Dave O’Dwyer, for helping us bring the internet to Downham.


Measuring the Impact of Social Media

I went to the Social Media Influence conference today and overall it was a really good event, with lots of different brands, companies and people talking about how Social Media has enriched their activities. There were some great virals shown, like the Starbucks Red project video shown by their Digital Director Alexandra Wheeler.

There were also some really interesting stories told, one of which was told by Mobbie Nazir, from Brew Digital. She described an instance when all flights in Europe were grounded by the Iceland ash cloud. This posed a massive problem for the Anthony Nolan Trust who needed to get organs to the UK to get linked up with recipients. Through the use of twitter, the organisation was able to acquire a spare seat on the Eurostar from Brussels to London. They tweeted:

‘URGENT! Our courier stuck in Brussels carrying marrow. Needs 2 get on Eurostar/tunnel from 8pm UK      time 2nyt. Can u help’

And, within an hour, Eurostar had replied as the message was Retweeted all over the place. Amazing.

Now how do you measure what 140 characters impact is? Can it be measured by lives saved? Does that count anywhere as a metric? Sure, saving lives absorbs all sorts of attention in social media, the same way it does in traditional media, but this is not an isolated incident where twitter has been able to produce a crucial offline result. A few years back there was a student who tweeted his way out of an Egyptian prison. Twitter also played a crucial role in drawing attention to the Iranian election and censorship of the citizens and media reporting.

Funders like numbers. 1 million hits on youtube. 50,040 fans on facebook. 6298 connections on linkedin. The term ROI (return on investment) came up so often today, arguably more than the term social media! I completely understand the need for metrics and knowing how far brands, organisations and campaigns are reaching. But, I think that measurement is something that shouldn’t be correlated with numbers alone. There needs to be a social metric. A ‘lives saved’ metric. A ‘get out of jail’ metric. The human factor. Afterall, all of this social media buzz is based on creating meaningful relationships with clients, fans, supporters, etc. Why can’t a social metric also be valued? Although it’s very hard to measure, it’s just as important as the numbers bit.


Pop-up shop

If you’re out and about in London the next few weekends, check out this Pop-up jewellry shop on Columbia Road. The shop features hand made creations from the Dialogue Collective as well as students and other designers and makers. All pieces are priced at £20. Plus, the shop sits above the ever so trendy flower market that happens on Sundays. It makes a nice day out. You can’t miss it- just walk down the road and you’ll see lots of home made tape signs pointing you in the right direction. Just in case you do, its number 146 Columbia Road.


A letter to the Editor

Dear Glamour Magazine,

I used to like you. Although some of my friends judged, and called me vain and warned me of sub-par content and subject matter, I really liked reading you. I liked your stories about women starting their own stuff up and your fashion pages, how they weren’t full of silly feathered, bejeweled frocks just aimed at middle class women. I liked how the School of Everything somehow managed to get on your Blogroll. But today is the last day I ever pay for, or even flip through your glossy, celebrity donning magazine ever again.

Why? My answer is very simple. I was grossly offended by ‘Your world cup survival guide’. Ok, fine you came up with a way of playing up on the fact that less women than men will be keen on the world cup. Fine- sterotypical, but fine. But then, you go on to suggest ways of ‘Escaping the football this summer with our clever, stylish 90-minute must-dos’ as alternatives to a 90-minute match (see bottom of post for this)

These must dos are: (this isn’t a joke, by the way, this is completely real)

– ‘Watch Sex and the City 2’

– ‘Shop till you’re ready to drop’

– ‘ Try wine tasting’

– ‘Have a picnic in the park’

– ‘Have a bake off’

Oh, and since its also a promotional piece featuring Rosemont White Wine, ‘Give football the Yellow card: win a girl’s shopping trip to New York’. No Glamour I won’t. You get a RED card for being so offensive, sexist and uninspiring. Have a bake off? Honestly? This is not a clever, or stylish ‘must-do’. It’s dated and perpetuating an age old stereotype. You should have included knitting, look after your children or braiding each others hair if that’s theme you’re rolling with. On page 105 you’re telling women ‘yes, you can do anything’ and not 5 pages later, you’re telling us to have a bake off. Lovely.

Here is MY World Cup Survival Guide:

– Don’t read Glamour

– Watch a match- or all of them. If you don’t like football, the best matches to watch will be the later games, like quarter and semi finals. They’ll (hopefully) be the most exciting. Also the prospect of North Korea having to face South Korea for a match is insanely exciting- it’s historical.

– Drink juice. Or beer. Or cider. Drink anything- except Rosemont Sauvingnon Blanc. (Any company that allowed that ad to endorse them must be crazy, or even worse any company that came up with that ad is just completely out to lunch)

– Pretend you support a team. Since Canada isn’t in the World Cup, I’ve decided to support Spain. And Argentina. And Holland. And Italy because I drew Italy in my work’s football lottery. Then when one team gets knocked out, switch and support another. It drives some people crazy, but when you have no actual allegiance to a team, it’s quite fun. Fairweather supporting. Try it.

– Carry on with life like normal?

I’m so disappointed- partly because I won’t ever read the magazine again but mostly because I used to defend my Glamour reading, and now I’m just embarrassed that I actually thought that it wasn’t a horrible resource for women.

(PS-I have sent this to Glamour. If you too are annoyed, send something to them:


Sustainability’s Next Top Model

Green Thing has just launched a really cool competition: Sustainability Next Top Model. When I first heard about it, I had images in my mind of Tyra Banks asserting authority over eco-conscious people. But it’s nothing like how I pictured.  It’s actually a really nice way of showcasing 4 new start ups, all offering an alternative to consuming more.

Vote on facebook for your favourite and the winner gets a marketing campaign worth a £50,000.


My Canada Has Real Lakes

I know that Canada will see people from all around the world arrive for the June G20 summit. Impressions are important. But why is there a fake lake when we have so many real and beautiful ones? Yesterday saw the announcement of an a million dollar fake lake in the summit headquarters to ‘impress foreign media’. It’s not just a waste of water, and resource, money, time- the list could go on….*sigh*.

Here’s an idea- send them on a boat tour of an actual lake, like for Lake Ontario, whose shores Toronto happens to be on. I know Lake Ontario is not the cleanest or bluest of Lakes. Nor does it have Muskoka chairs lined up all around it (like the fake Lake does). Canada has an immense number of lakes- something like 31,752. Well, now, we’ve got 31,753. Only one of them isn’t even real!


‘You Are Responsible For Spills’

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This one sure is. I think we could easily replace a few words in that sign to make it a more telling depiction of what’s going on now in the Gulf of Mexico.

(Spotted on Boing Boing, image from Flickr)


Tim Hortons in Kandahar

Canadian love their Tim Hortons. It’s much more than a chain of coffee shops, its a cultural institution. There is a Tim Hortons on the military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. And, when top Commanders of NATO shut down the Pizza Hut and Burger King on the base, Tim Horton’s got to stay. How nice.

But some are now thinking that changes to military policy, that makes Tim Hortons staff in Kandahar eligible for Afghan war medals is a step too far. Arguments in favour of Tim Horton’s staff receiving medals is based on previous wars where medals were awarded in WWII to civilians working for Salvation Army, Knights of Columbus, the Canadian Legion and the YMCA. Other say it doesn’t matter if Tim Horton’s staff are rewarded, the military has a reward system that shows who has done what type of service and for how long so it wouldn’t be as prestigious an award as those who were in combat in Afghanistan. Critics of the change in policy suggest that the only reason why the policy has changed is that American’s receive more medals than Canadian forces.

Canadians arguing over giving Tim Hortons staff awards, and being competitive with Americans? Yep, that’s the Canada I know and love.

(Spotted in the National Post)


Soccer Aid: England v. The Rest of the World

What a good idea. Get together a bunch of veteran professional footballers and celebrities in Old Trafford stadium and raise money for UNICEF. This year’s England squad included: Robbie Williams (Boy band singer), Alan Shearer (football legend) and Jamie Redknapp (veteran footballer). The rest of the world’s team included Zidane (football god), Gordon Ramsey (celebrity chef), Ryan Giggs (Manchester United player) and Mike Myers (Canadian actor). My favourite player on the pitch was definitely Olly Murrs. Olly, most famous for being the runner up of X -Factor is quite the player!

He owned the right wing for the first half of the match and had a really good work rate. Second half, he helped assist Sherringham in his goal, ducking so that he could take the header. Yes, Olly, I saw that clever little tuck you did.

It was a great game, really funny and light-hearted- something we rarely see in the football realm. The best remark from commentators was ‘Alan Shearer, denied by an Irish comedian.’ Hilarious- and true.