ReInvent your Neighborhood at Makers and Co Festival Amsterdam

groupmaking

As part of a series of workshops engaging children in the art of social design, we held a session called ‘Reinvent your Neighborhood’ at the Makers & Co Festival in Amsterdam. The aim of Unexpect is to both to teach children new skills as much as to share the amazing inventions and designs children can create.
The 13 children, all of whom are members of the Weekend Academie in Slotervaart, ranged in age from 9 to 12. We kicked off with a creative energzier to get to know each other before introducing the topic of the workshop and getting down to mapping the different groups of people who might live in the neighbourhood including themselves and what their needs might be.

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Mapping people and challenges in the neighbourhood.

The children named challenges such as old ladies with heavy shopping crossing the road slowly, the police who couldn’t catch the robbers due to slow cars, mothers wondering when their children would come home at night and boys who couldn’t play football because there was dog poo on the grass.

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For inspiration we checked out a number of recent inventions such as Google Glass, 3D printers, Sugru (one of my favorites), and Smart Highways from Roosegaarde Studio. Then the children choose one topic to work on and set out to imagine a solution.

The-Google-glass

LittleBits

For protoyping we worked with LittleBits, while they are attraction in themselves, they are also quite an effective rapid prototyping tool. Some children preferred to just draw their ideas or work with clay, carton, straws or of course a combination. Thinking with your hands!

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So what did they make?
My two favorite inventions probably would be the sound warning system for the dogs to keep them off the football field, for which the boys also made a prototype (using the littlebits sound senor and noise output). The other invention was for the mother worried about her children out late, through a repurposed phone, they could send coded light signals, red meaning ‘You need to come home now’ and green for ‘I am on my way’.

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Other inventions included a park bench on wheels for the old ladies, an air canon for rubbish and a ‘friend house’ for children with no friends.

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Showing their work

Thanks to Harriet Robijn my co-facilitator, the children of the weekend Academie and Mira de Graaf and Diana Krabbendam our hosts at the Makers & Co Festival.

Check out our Flickr Set of the workshop. http://www.flickr.com/photos/91070382@N02/
Photographs by ACHT film & fotografie

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What do children care about?

You’re 10 years old, you live in Dublin, and someone asks you:
What’s the one thing would you like to change in the world?
What do you think the children said, more toys, less school?
Not at all, this is what the children said:

An end to world hunger;  No more air pollution;
World Peace; that no-one has to lose family and friends;
a cure for cancer;  the rainforest to be saved.
No shortage of wild idealism!

Then inspired by a presentation of future technologies (here)
and their own imagination, the children sat down to invent
ways to solve their chosen issue.
With names like ‘The Yom’, ‘Wheels of the Future’ and ‘Beddy Bye’,
here are some of their designs:

EnviroCar-s

A car which breathes in Co2 and exhails oxygen. 

FoodMachine-s

The YOM, a food and drink maker against world hunger.

Self-WritingPen-s2

A pen that writes by itself for children with Dyslexia.

Killian-Car-s2

A car which drives on electricity created by the wheels hitting the road. 

Solar-Chariot-s

And a solar powered chariot.

Thanks to all the children in 3rd class and 5th class, to Mr. O Sullivan and Ms. Halligan and the principal Mrs. Moore, all at the Harold School in Glasthule in Dublin, for having us. www.theharoldschool.ie

What would your children design for you? (Can children become Social Designers?)

To an extent they already are! Children’s potential is oft overlooked in every field. Their capacity for empathy and creative thinking positions them perfectly as social designers. And let’s face it, we need all the help we can get. Unexpect hypothesis is, ‘Children can creatively solve some of the world’s problems’ (problems usually created by adults). We are researching this hypothesis through a series of design workshops and manifestations. Looking specifically at the questions:
Under which circumstances can children tap into their design potential?;
What types of social and environmental problems can children best work on?

This week in a prototype workshop with 16 children in the age range of 8-9 years, we worked on the topic ‘Designing for your Parents’  The workshop was about two hours in length.

massagemachine

A floating massage machine for father, as he suffers from a slipped disc (hernia).

We kicked off the workshop, with a game, to encourage creative thinking and feelings of empathy. (if you would like the workshop program, download it here Unexpect#2 (in Dutch). Then we invited the children to draw the outline of an adult in their lives and map onto it any problems, they knew of. Most children choose a parent or a grandparent. They described problems such as, broken hips, black lungs from smoking, red spots on hands, being too busy, always having to work and sadness due to divorce.

oma&opa

A 3d printed hart for Grandma and a wire for better hearing for Grandpa.

Then we looked at a number of new and future technologies and talked about their potential. Such as 3d printing, eye lenses which react to the wearers blood- sugar level, jet pack, Google’s self driving car, huge touch screens.

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Lenses which react to the wearers blood- sugar level, for diabetes patients.

Next up was to envisage in what way a new technology might provide a solution to one of the earlier mapped problems. Most children went eagerly to work and had plenty of ideas, a few children struggled. Such as the girl whose father was sad due to the divorce, she didn’t know how to help him with that in a structural way, another problem she perceived was the lack of color in her father’s wardrobe so she decided on an app to give him clothes advice every morning.

app

The clothes color advice app, on the right the different screens. 

rocket

A cigarette which turns into a rocket and takes off, as anti-smoking device

We closed the workshop by sharing solutions and followed up the next day with an evaluation and checking if there were any concerns from the home front and to check if all the children knew where they could go to if they felt troubled.

Through the workshop and evaluation we learned a number of things:

– the workshop scored high in the children’s estimation with girls scoring it higher than boys;
– of the four workshop parts, the opening game and designing solutions scored the highest, followed by the new technologies and as last the mapping or problems;
– the children are well aware of their parents and other adults problems
– children are motivated to alleviate parents distress or discomfort.

Questions that were raised:
– how do we deal with the privacy of issues raised by children revealing adults issues?
– how do we channel creative thinking into applicable solutions

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, we’d love to hear them, drop a comment or mail us at workshops (at) unexpect.nl

This is the second in a a series of test workshops for Unexpect. Unexpect cultivates young people’s creativity for beauty, resilience and solutions to social and environmental challenges. In a nutshell, ‘Social Design Education.’

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LittleBits @ Maker Faire Amsterdam

LittleBits, the brainchild of Ayah Bdeir, an alumna of the MIT Media Lab, is a library of Electronics dubbed as ‘LEGOs for the iPad generation.’ They are pieces of an electronics  which snap together with magnets to create a working circuit, they have a simple color coding, blue for power, green for output and pink for sensors. You can make all kinds of fun things with them. I had just ordered an extended kit as a prototype tool for the new school I am working on called DNS, when I saw the call to take part in the Amsterdam Maker Festival and thought lets join in. And see what children would want to do with LittleBits.

nits
They look very friendly.

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Putting together the LittleBits, light, slider, motor.

maeve-motor
Attaching things to the motor to see what happens.

On LittleBits:
It wasn’t really a workshop, we just played together and tried things out, some adults were totally glued as were some children, and kept trying different ways to make things turn bleep and light up.
The LittleBits are easy to work with and everyone young and old found them user friendly, on the down side, they are less adjustable than you would want them to be, as in the motion sensor would need to be in a really quiet room to work, the LED light when connected to a sound sensor mainly responds to high tones and stays on for a couple of seconds before going out and you can’t adjust that.
Another point of concern is the strength of the battery which wore down very quickly and the strength of the fan which wouldn’t really blow a sandwich plastic bag up, maybe only for feathers?

On Amsterdam Maker Festival:
This was a try out version, they put the whole thing together in 5 weeks so fair play. It was held in a perfect location, a former factory in Amsterdam North and there were a number of engaging children’s exhibits to interact with, so excellent for kids. I hope when the full version comes, next May 23rd and 24th, 2014 they will also attract the adult Maker scene for example people like Fred Abels, Plakken en Knippen from the Hague, the Dutch DIY Bio group etc. Looking forward!

See here for the flickr set of photos, from Saturday the 7th of September at Maker Faire Amsterdam

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filipejuliehousefathernson

Co-Creation Workshop

On December 12th, 2012, 12 bright minds and 3 equally bright facilitators gathered to co-create on my start up concept, which has working title ‘Creative Mobs’
Where Design Thinking meets Flash Mobs

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The Concept

Imagine. You’re a large non-profit working on sanitation issues in urban Kenya or you’re a new phone brand wanting to move into the Bangladeshi market. You want to get a new perspective or perhaps you need the local inside story. Then you can Call the Creative Mob, there’s sure to be one in your city.  What’s Creative Mob you ask, well it’s where Design thinking meets a Flash Mob. It’s groups of local young people who have been trained in design research, creative methods and prototyping.

A Creative Mob

A creative mob is made up of young people who were previously unemployed yet motivated and living in an urban environment. Through the Creative Mob Learning Circles App, the help of local facilitators and online mentors they have developed their skills and portfolios as design thinkers, gaining badges for, for example, design research. They work both live, doing local design research and online via the Creative Mob crowd platforms creating ideas and prototypes for whatever question your organization may have.

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The Open Creative Mob System has three main tiers:

1. Learning, How to be a design thinker for Creative Mob, Resources, Mentors,
2. Mob Jobs. Linking Mobs and assignments. And to inspiration from the crowd.
3. While some local Creative Mobs are also able to develop full-scale apps or campaigns, many are not (yet). Social Design questions can be uploaded to the platform, for people and companies who want to deliver the full solution.

The overall aim of The Creative Mob: to Create Work and Value, Creatively, for the users, the design thinkers, and the clients, globally.

The Co-Creation Workshop

The aim of the workshop was to, get a feel for the potential of the concept and to gain insights into its methods. The workshop program was 5 hours long, moving from Ice breakers with found objects, then me presenting what I knew, such as my Manifesto, the basic concept so far, and my vision on creative thinking. Then we got to Envisaging the Potential in Combinations, to Drawing the Clients and Mobbers Journeys, all followed by a group think and interspersed with food breaks. Here are the Persona’s we worked with to envisage scenarios. Here is a flickr set of photos.

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So what came out?

First off, very encouragingly the feedback on the concept was very positive, ok these folks are people in my network, some of them good friends, so they would say that, yes, yet this positive feedback transpired more in the number of and variations in scenarios they came up with on how a Creative Mob could add value, to communities, non-profits, companies and in schools. For example:
‘One group came up with several possibilities where clients could use the help of creative mobs,
including market research, helping scale up small companies, marketing of new product and facilitate or host new creative spaces. Problems such as waste management or traffic could use a new creative approach, like the use of collaborative space or creating new products out of waste. Also important to note is that they imagined creative mobsters as connecters, connecting local and global and making unexpected links between existing markets.’

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Second. In three groups, the co-creators worked on: the happy flow of a based on one of the characters in the education model; how to enroll participants in Dhaka; and the ecosystem of actors in a school system who could engage with creative thinking there.

Conclusion

A viable social concept and with some business potential, sounds like a good start to me!

What’s Next?

I have noticed that before you know it, it’s down to operations, work work work, making it happen. That was a warning sign to me, that I need to first concentrate on the essence of this concept. To explore and describe the space, the space where new ways of thinking come from, the unknown potential, the moment before you choose, when you look sideways and wonder.  This difficult to describe essence is the core of the concept. I am calling this essence: Unexpect.

To Unexpect: To actively create opportunity for the unexpected. 

Thanks so much to Mercedes, Bjorn, Valentina, Eveline, Klaas, Marieke, Marije, Merel, Gerd, Kim, Kevin, Robbert, Sara, Coen and Klaas. Excellent people. More about them Here

I’m Starting an uh . . a StartUp.

Since I transitioned from Butterfly Works last July, (now on the advisory board), I have been reflecting and exploring envisaged futures.

One might think that I have been doing what I love, already for years, which is sooo true, innovative education projects in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Kenya and Uganda  and yet there has been this niggling feeling. A feeling that, I want one big idea to unify, what I love, what I’m good at and what I find important into one program. A sort of personal ‘Theory of Everything‘.

In my search, I wrote my manifesto,  drew up my conditions, (a social enterprise, scalable, globally relevant) talked to lot of people, started the THNK program, did nothing (when the most reflection happens), hung out with my children (most inspiring) and came up with 5 promising concepts.
Still I kept flip flopping as to which of these concepts I REALLY wanted to do. Plus people were asking me, so what are you doing now? To which I could only answer ‘ I’m Starting an uh . . a StartUp’

Breakthrough

Back to the drawing board. While drinking coffee with Lino Hellings, she advised me: ‘Do what you love the most and even if no one else cares, you’ll still love it’
What I love the most is the creative thinking, design research and helping others to explore their creativity. As I wrote in my manifesto I see creativity as close to divinity.

Wow!  So simple.
For years, I had been choosing what to work on, as a social innovator, on the basis of: What does the world need? and what doesn’t exist already? I had been doing things that were 60 – 70% of what I love. not bad, but now I’m taking a different starting point. Creative Thinking is the leading ingredient, What I also love contributing to is, the resilience of young people in disadvantaged circumstances and I love the potential of amplifying it all via the internet. I drew the diagram above to investigate the intersection of these 3 main ingredients and plot my concepts. My start-up will at the middle point, where the star is.

The working titel is Creative Mobs, where design thinking meets flash mobs, and on December the 12th I’m holding a Co-Creation workshop at Thnk in Amsterdam to take this concept to the next level.

The potential of Mobile Open Education resources for students in developing economies.

A Mobile Leap?

Connecting teachers and students in developing economies to open education resources through their mobiles. A huge potential.

It’s now possible for people almost anywhere to connect to quality learning materials on almost any topic. If you want to know how to grow tomatoes or to study nuclear physics, you can watch a ‘how to’ youtube video or follow a free course online, from Coursera, sometimes gaining a certificate from a world-renowned university. That is, if you know that the resources exist and have sufficient online access. Two factors often not in place for schools in developing economies.

In an effort to bridge the access to OER gap, a wealth of organisations such as the Commonwealth for Learning and Connexions are collaborating to gather, translate and share available Open Education Resources (OER) for their partners and schools in low resource contexts.

At the same time, while many teachers in developing countries are unable to further their own education, or gain access to quality learning materials, they do regularly have access to a basic handset or a feature phone. A feature phone which can perhaps access the internet and can play videos from the SD card.

Three important departure points come to mind as to how we could harness the huge potential of OER:

1. How can we alert teacher’s to this trend and connect them to relevant online resources, either for their own professional development or for use in the classroom?
This, whilst taking into account obstacles such as low bandwidth, lack of time, cost and old handsets.

2. Can departments of education curate and select curriculum specific resources and share them to school using sd cards from phone to phone for example ?

3. What is the potential for students to follow extra courses, using their phones, considering the need for sustained motivation and the usual obstacles of cost and bandwidth. Is there perhaps need for an app to connect end users to the resources most suited to their context?

In the coming months I will explore these three questions, using ‘User Scenarios’ to explore how the growing trend of online and open educational resources can be appropriated to offer new opportunities via mobile for teachers, students and education systems in developing and post conflict economies.

I will be building on my work experiences of the last 10 years at Butterfly Works, working in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Afghanistan working with multi-discipline education teams to co-create curriculum compatible, open and interactive resources. And of course inspired by the UNESCO and EFA drive – amongst other international bodies – for quality teacher’s for developing economies and the challenge of how to motivate and train so many new teacher’s.

Further my explorations will be informed by the recent Mc Kinsey report ‘How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better’, the Uncollege Manifesto, the Maker Movement, the FrameWork for 21st Century Learning, the Flipped Classroom, the Mac Arthur DML Badges project, Simon Simek, Mozilla Labs, mLearn 2012, the broader Open Education movement and more.

I’ll be glad to hear from others who are exploring similar questions.

User Research in Bangladesh

User Research in Bangladesh

This photo set was made during our first research visit to Bangladesh as part of the plans for a nationwide mobile awareness and learning project in Bangladesh for young people.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/butterflyworks/sets/72157630048580040/


Young people at the FPAB center in Mymensingh, posing for me with their phones

The thematic focus is sexual and reproductive health awareness, information and skills. The program will benefit girls and women especially and aims to be a collaboration between the private sector, civil society and government in order to build a sustainable initiative.

We are lucky to be working with excellent partners on this as below, our role is the mobile app to work in synergy with the other partners work.
Oxfam Novib, BRAC, HASAB, CAMPE, BNPS and FPA Bangladesh, Butterfly Works.

Here you can see my Slideshare on our findings on the use of mobile amongst young people in 6 different settings in Dhaka and Mymensingh.

An AR game for gender awareness?

At Butterfly Works, Merel and I are asking ourselves if it would be possible to create an augmented reality game which creates awareness of the differences in how men and women experience public space, to give each gender insight into the experience of the other gender. All over the world be it Amsterdam or Bombay, Lagos or Dhaka, women have less freedom in how they use public space, can we challenge this in a playful way?

Here are some links we are checking out for inspiration

All going well we’d like to host a co-creation workshop on this with a number of designers, AR folk, urban space activists etc to see if we can conceive an experience to raise awareness.

Een slide show from Kars (friend of joris) about the future of games in the city
http://www.slideshare.net/kaeru/game-design-the-city-best-scene-in-town

Game layer video door Seth Priebatsh:
http://www.extendlimits.nl/nieuws/artikel/game_layer_de_opvolger_van_social_media/

Scavenger van Seth:
http://scvngr.com/

interesting group, have a workshop coming up 10 July about mobile storytelling:
http://www.setup.nl/content/workshop-mobile-storytelling

Tijmen
http://www.netniet.org

Butterfly Works

Butterfly Works is the organisation I co-founded with Hester Ezra and Ineke Aquarius. All the work listed here is done as part of the Butterfly collective.



http://www.butterflyworks.org

We are creative minds who use design for social change. We work in emerging economies because we believe in undiscovered potential. Through serious media, social branding and experiential learning we share knowledge, trigger creativity and build sustainable businesses.