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Green Thing’s Next Big Thing

When I first started working with Green Thing back in April, there was talk of Saved. There were sketches and ideas, photos and anecdotes of personal T-Shirt stories. Quite a few months later, after a few trial festivals, lots of help and countless volunteer hours, Saved is now live and free for the world to see!

The Saved initiative takes old unwanted T-Shirts and washes them, rebrands them with ‘Saved’ lettering and provides a little story about a T-shirt’s previous life. Everyone has T-Shirts kicking about, especially ones of sentimental value that may just be too hard to let go of (even if they are 2 sizes to small). We’ve had lots of famous people send in their shirts, like Imogen Heap, Professor Green and VV Brown to name a few. You could buy a T and end up with one that used to belong to Imogen Heap. That’s pretty cool.

Saved T-Shirt’s can be bought from Green Thing’s little shop online, and if you have old Ts to be Saved, send them in!

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TED talk about Kiva

This is a brilliant TED talk by Jessica Jackley, the co-founder of Kiva.org. Kiva is a platform that allows individuals to donate to entrepreneurs around the world. Kiva uses micro-finance and the internet to support people around the world set up projects that help improve their lives.

I like how she talks about ‘buying our distance’ and how some people (myself included!) feel like if we give people a few dollars or something, we feel like we can get on with our day and the poverty and all its problems is out of sight and out of mind. Kiva as a project really aims to empower people and I think it’s such a clever yet practical solution to reducing poverty and stimulating fundamental change in peoples’ lives.

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This is great.

I love this.

(Spotted on FFFFound)

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Water Water everywhere?

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Today is Global Blog Action day, where 4,439 blogs in 133 countries will be publishing stories about water. It’s about awareness, but also about action. It’s widely recognised that there is a global water crisis. You read about it in the news, see programs on TV about it and there is even a Wikipedia page for it (obviously).

Out of the hundreds of water issues I could write about, I’ve chosen to write about water (specifically bottled water) as a commodity. Why? Because almost a billion people do not have access to clean water. Yet, people, companies and countries are racing to exploit what they can of water resources. The bottled water industry is a $60-80 billion dollar industry. Here are 5 reasons why there is still demand for bottled water- and why there shouldn’t be.

1. People think it’s got health benefits. Bottled water isn’t actually better for you, or your health. In some instances it is actually worse.

2. Municipal supplies are feared, likely because of a few high profile cases where people fell ill. Municipal supplies are at least stringently regulated, whereas bottled water does not undergo any form of  testing.

3, Taste. This is a Tricky one. Sometimes municipal water tastes different because of how it has been treated. But, buying a Brita or any other type of filter sorts that out. Squash (cordial) is also a good addition.

4. 50% of bottled water in the US actually comes from municipal supplies. So, basically you’re paying a markup of 100%. You know that expression don’t judge a book by its cover? The same statement can apply to bottled water. You don’t actually know where it came from.

5. Those pretty mountains, and cold climate on the label must mean the water is delicious and pure, right? Exotic branding (Everest, Arctic, etc) is still branding and Everest Water doesn’t come from the its namesake. It comes from Texas.

Newsweek calls water “The New Oil”. Someone has already coined the term “Peak Water“. That’s really scary. People of developed nations live consuming an abundance of water while people in developing nations live on a fraction- if that- to survive.

Water is such a precious commodity, worth far more than oil. Some peoples’ livelihoods may depend on water for a profit, but millions more lives depend on it being clean, accessible and available.

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A note about etiquette on public transport

Due to a series of unfortunate events this month, I have found myself on crutches. I have a broken leg. For the first time since getting the break, I decided today was the day to venture out of the house and attend an event for work. The event was called ‘Meet the Communities’ and was held at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (great event, ps). So, I had to venture onto the tube, London’s underground. TFL told me it would take about 34 minutes from where I was traveling to get to Whitehall place. No big deal.

I had to change lines 3 times. I spent time on the Northern, Central and Circle lines. Besides having to navigate masses of people and climb up countless levels of stairs (quite the workout!) the most frustrating part of the whole travel experience was the people. I’d board a train and I’d see people sitting down reading newspapers, playing on their phones, speaking with their friends. They’d see me and immediately turn away as though it was a game. Last one caught looking might just have to give me their seat.

I was on 6 different trains today and only once did someone offer their seat to me. The one person that did off was well over retirement age and is the kind of person I’d offer my seat to, if you get my drift. It was appauling.

Not a single able bodied person got up to offer a seat on 6 different trains. There is something very wrong about that. I am so fortunate that I am only on crutches for a month and I’m not someone who has an acute or on-going disability. But honestly, this is just ridiculous! Where has common decency gone?

I really really hope that my experience today was a fluke and that the over the next month I will be pleasantly surprised. I seriously hope so.

Ps.- After writing this, all I can think about is Accesscity, something Dominic Campbell and co. have been trying to get off the ground. Dom, make it happen. I need to channel my rage towards something productive during this time 😉

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I grew up drinking Hamilton Tap Water

I just spent some time back in my hometown Hamilton, Ontario and I saw these adverts all over the bus stops and on billboards around the city.

Last month, I helped design World Tap Water Week with Green Thing, so was very cool to see tap water adverts all over.

In March 2009, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities strongly encouraged that: “All municipalities to phase out the sale and purchase of bottled water at their own facilities where appropriate, and where potable water is available and that municipalities be urged to develop awareness campaigns about the positive benefits and quality of municipal water supplies“. Apparently, the Province of Ontario has the world’s highest standards of drinking water.

It’ll be really interesting to see how bottled water phases out of cities- and how other municipalities will market their drinking water. Nice one Hamilton.

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Water as a human right

At the end of July, world leaders attended a historic summit on the Human Right to Water.

In 1948, when the Declaration of Human Rights was written, there wasn’t a bit that included water as a human right. Why? Maybe because in 1948 few people would have imagined some 60 odd years later countries would be at war over the precious resource.

You’ll be pleased to know that the majority of leaders voted in favour of “The right to clean water and access to sanitation”. Canada, amongst several other countries abstained from the vote. Now, get this: the decision does not make the right to water legally enforceable, it is symbolically important as it places more political obligation on national governments. I know water is one of Canada’s treasures. We have so much of it, and as a commodity it’s an important part of our GDP. Maybe our country’s leadership stumbled a bit because they realised that we might just have to be accountable for Canadian communities where water sources are of a developing world standard, ie: native communities. Politics, economics and self-interests aside, water is a fundamental human need, which trumps many of the other ‘rights’ that were voted in to the Universal Declaration of Human rights.

I’m an eternal optimist but this whole water as a human right debacle has me seriously questioning the fate of humanity. Not to be dramatic or anything, but if people can agree on water as a human right (and NEED at that!) what can they agree on?

(I took the photo above in 2005. That is Anwar. I stayed with him and his family in India. He could carry up to 8 gallons of water on his head).

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Charity Football Tournment

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for….

The first annual Islington Borough FC tournament. It’s your chance to try and beat the IBLFC team. We’re pretty good, you probably won’t beat us. But we welcome you giving it your best shot.

Here are the details:

Date: Tuesday August 17th, 2010
Location: Holloway School, N70JG (It’s on astro, so no studs or blades)
Time: 6:30pm-8:00pm
Team size: 7 a-side

This is a charity tournament, and all funds go to the Islington Borough Ladies Football club. Entry is £100 per team, and you can have up to 12 players. There will be lots of snacks, fans and healthy competition. Shirt swapping allowed.

Prizes are pretty amazing. You could win the chance to have your picture taken with an Ashley Cole look-a-like, 2nd hand Tottenham Hotspur goalie gloves and chocolate cupcakes. Oh, and bragging rights. That’s important.

It should be a really fun time! If you can’t come but we like to contribute to the club, please get in touch.

If you want to play but can’t field a team, there will be a Dolly Mixtures one, of players without teams.

Please do pass around to flatmates, co-workers, family, friends, etc…The more the merrier!!

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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.

AreUbored?


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.

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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.