Live blog of “Heroes of Social Innovation” #smwldn

13:30: This pic is of host/ chair Mark Pedro Hindle and Futuregov’s Dominic Campbell a few minutes before this session on social innovation. This is a live blog so keep refreshing the page for updates.

Dominic: Social innovation needs to connect back with the system that it’s trying to challenge and change – we could do with government help on occassions. Often these two operate in completely seperate ways but it’s good to connect back. Social innovators often want to have fun as well as change the world: government seems to have forgotten all about that. Two of our projects:

Casserole Club was on BBC Breakfast this morning – tackling social isolation.

Enabled by Design: sod you NHS, your equipment’s crap, we’re going to bring together some amazing designers with 3D printers and actually make crutches etc.

Next up, Jeremy Gilley, Filmmaker, on his organisation, Peace One Day: On the 21 September 2007 we managed to hold a one day ceasefire called

“Peace Day” in Afghanistan: this day enabled 10,000 doctors to go into areas they didn’t normally go and vaccinate children against polio.

[Shows a film introducing Peace One Day and its work]

Jeremy: we are trying to build an annual day of peace and non-violence: a global ceasefire day. A Peace Day has now been adopted by every member of the United Nations. Our job is to institutionalise Peace Day and make it sustainable. I’ve been working together with [management consultancy] McKinsey all morning – they are putting together a study attempting to measure the results/ effect of that one day truce.

We’ve had a lot of support from artists like Jake Chapman, Sam Taylor Wood etc. [Contributing to AKA Peace exhibition at the ICA later this month].

We are developing educational materials to help children understand.

Over 400 NGOs were active all across the world this last Friday just gone – 21 September.

Domestic violence also important: on Friday we mobilised anti domestic violence associations across the world.

We use partners to raise awareness – rather than just give money we ask people what they’re going to do on 21 September. Partners include Dior, Google, Ocado, Nokia and Innocent.

Global Truce 2012 was probably the largest gathering of people contributing to world peace on one given day; we should be able to see a large reduction in violence across the world. Now we are measuring it, next year we can actually improve on it. The power of it, it’s completelly in our hands, it’s especially important for young people to get involved and recognise this.

14:06: Dominic: thanks Jeremy, one of the things social innovators have in common clearly a great amount of enthusiasm. Next, we have Ken Banks of Kiwanga.

Ken: Gonna show slides of few friends of mine who’ve invented some cool stuff: one friend invented same language subtitling, now helping school children learn Hindi in India. Now, my friend Laura who invented the sew on suitcase, to help mums-to-be in Africa going into hospital to have their babies.

This is a project I worked on in Africa: I was brought in to see how mobile phones could be used to help women waiting for water. The software, frontline SMS, now being used in hundreds of projects. Software enables you to run campaigns using purely mobile phone signal, you don’t need the internet. For us in the iphone, 4G, Facebook-driven world we forget that for many people, mobile SMS is all they’ve got.

Monitoring drugs that are out of stock, one of my favourite projects: we made a map showing where drugs were available, used to persuade governments in East Africa to open up supply.

Survivors Connect was set up to monitor – and help stop – human trafficking.

All of these projects are low-tech, simple stuff run by people at grassroots level, the people who are actually affected by the issues.

We’ve got an online community – 3,000 people from all the world all helping each other. 

Forget the internet, maybe not a great thing to say in Social Media Week, but really for most of these communities, it’s all about mobile.

EF Schmacher, Small is Beautiful – a great book. Written in the 1970s but still really relevant to all this stuff.

My new project is called Means of Exchange, encourages people to use local services: we organised a cashmob getting people to use a tiny bookshop in Hackney: they spent £500 in one day.

Dominic: thanks Ken, and now from an Instagram friend to a “real” friend, Mark Herbert from Good Gym.

Mark: Good Gym is a way of utilising that “wasted” time when you are purely exercising. For example, here’s one of our volunteers who goes on a run every morning and takes a newspaper to this old lady who lives alone.

Three things I’d like to talk to you about. First, measurement. In this early prototyping phase we are trying to assess whether or not our activities are actually creating real behaviour change in the communities they are trying to help.

Secondly, building platforms. It’s tempting to build products in their traditional sense. EBay for example have done this really well, built a community that can trade with itself.

Third: making things delightful, fun, is all very well, but we have to also make sure that they are actually useful. I think we are getting a handle on this

These are the three major challenges.

Dominic: great, thanks. Can we do questions?

First question: What about scale? Is global better than local?

Jeremy: for us, the mission is global. Measurement is absolutely everything. I couldn’t attempt measurement alone. I went to McKinsey and it’s great they are on board. How many people were fed, what does it mean? Really exciting that we can put down a benchmark, something to aim for the future.

Ken: easy to be obsessed with scale. But even one little thing that’s helped a few thousand people: for those people it’s immensely important. for us, scale is all about having lots of people using it and adding up all those numbers: a thousand ideas serving a few thousand people each.

Mark: I echo a lot of what these guys say. Certain platforms require a critical mass. For Good Gym, we’re just trying to succeed, make it sustainable on a small scale: we just want to make it work in London. Rather than focus on scale we’re looking very much at sustainability.

Ken: Be careful of chasing funding: it changes the game completely. Don’t go for money on day one or maybe even year one. YOu can keep more control of youur project.

Jeremy: it’s not about getting to the top of the mountain, it’s about being consistently there. Change is not going to happen overnight, keep building slowly.

Comment: you’re all great, but it would be so much better if there was a woman on the panel.

Question: what does Kiwanja mean?

Ken: It’s Swahili for earth, ground, dirt – the stuff we walk on.

In a lot of our early work, governments were flummuxed by fact mobile phones had got into hands of activists. Great article on the Economist about how governments and activitsts were playing cst and mouse with mobile devices.

Question: do you think these type of approaches give an excuse to African governments to not develop infrastructure.

Ken: the mobile industry is private sector driven. People making a lot of money. the real question is non-profits: governments letting non-profits build a road for example, do the work for free. The fact mobile is private sector is a good thing. The fact you can get rich and make money – that’s what’s made mobile succeed in these countries. It’s kind of a chicken and egg. Does that make sense?

Questioner: Let’s talk about it afterwards.

Dominic: Is there no role for gorvenment in all of this?

Jeremy: I’ve been in the rooms of government and UN agencies and I’d rather be in that room, trying to affect the supply chain. Don’t see any point in being stuck outside the room. On the other hand, the Arab Spring etc have been people-led initiatives. People need to know that they are the drivers.

Ken: in some countries governments suck and they do actually kill people so you don’t want to be involved with that sort of government. I try not to make value judgements on people. There’s black and white but then a lot of grey in between. Verizon stopped people using their broadband in the US because they were pro-abortion campaigners I think that’s terribly dangerous.

How do we use social media? Very slowly. I’ve been speaking at a lot of conferences; writing a lot; going to blogs, leaving comments on blogs. Facebook and Twitter: a lot of our staff and volunteers have come through those networks. A few years ago I’d have had to take out ads in magazines. Now we’ve got a global audience at the flick of a button.

Question for Jeremy: in terms of Peace Day, now much control do yo have when you engage with corporates and governments?

Jeremy: for example, Skype has helped us deliver our education resource to many different countries. We use much more than their money – their whole infrastructure is out there telling their users about Peace Day. Ocado have funded a primary education resource. We are looking at their marketing budgets, not CSR.

Question: we do beinghuman.com – working on fair trade in the arts. We can also use the crowd in the first world as much as the third world: come together and work on a small is beautiful way. There’s a sort of backlash against big celebrities – just think Bono! 

Dominic: we asked people how they’d feel about say Tesco sponsoring Casserole Club but people had mixed views. Would have been great for marketing but tricky.

Questioner: try “Brand Us” – we do the marketing, the people!

Question: How are your organisations doing educational outreach?

Jeremy: we’ve been developing materials with Scholastic. Skype has been helping with distribution. We’ve seen registration in 900 different countries. 

Ken: seems there’s two ways: the MBA plan: 100 page business plan etc, or my way, which is just go out there and do it. This is a message that young people need to be told: that it is possible. But there’s a time of great opportunity right now because more young people are thinking about entrepreneurship because there aren’t any jobs, and a lot are thinking about social entrepreneurship.

Mark: we are looking at how a very small organisation can service the public sector.

Question for Jeremy: in the early stages, how did you start? How did uou get to the stage where you were talking to the UN?

Jeremy: it seemed obvious to me that we needed this sort of day and it had to be global. The one organisation that is closest to holding the global community together is the UN. They had to decide to create it, it had to come from then. And then we could go to the people to drive it. We had to create that global structure first.

Questioner: once you’ve had the idea, how do you jumpstart engagement on the ground?

Jeremy: once the day had been created, we used a number of things like music, football, film, education, social media to spread the word. We have data on every sector of society. We’re working with Salesforce and Fujitsu. For this to work, other people have to own it. We’re in a good space now to see a phemomenal result.

Ken: I admire projects like Cola Life that worked on getting Coca Cola on board, with my first bit of software, I realised it, and it took a couple of years to get the first hundred people to use it. Built it cheaply and let it grow. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t throw everything at it. For first two and a half years we were self-funded. The users did the marketing for us. It was the Brand Us we mentioned earlier.

Mark: Politicians are saddling up with celebrities, we’re trying to change behaviour, but it’s not working. We have to own this stuff ourselves. With Good Gym and others, you put a hundred of these things out there and you have to just wait and see.

Paul Adams’ book, Grouped, is brilliant: you have to read it, it’s about how marketing needs to happen now. It’s my mate down the pub on Friday who’s going to really influence my decisions.

Dominic: do you start small and prototype because then you’ll nail it, or do you just go big from the begining? We’ve tried both ends of the spectrum and for me it’s pretty unpredictable. With Casserole Club we mailed out to 30,000 householda and got about 15 people sign up, but doing BBC Breakfast this morning should make a massive difference.

Ken: it all depends how much of a hurry you’re in. Transition Towns is a great example – they’re trying to combat global warming – you can’t go slow on a project like that, or you’ll literally run out of time.

Question: You’ve talked about NGOs not competing – are you guys going to go off and work together now?

Ken: Well, I can see Peace One Day using our platform, maybe. With regard to wider issue, you need a non-profit cull, I think – at the moment there are too many competing for resources. They’re not working with each other.

Dominic: we’re in danger of swamping people with micro-volunteering apps. Good Gym is looking for a couple of hours, Casserole Club needs a couple of hours. It would be great to have a way to manage all of that. We need diversity but at the same time it can be quite overwhelming.

Ken: If Facebook’s 900m were spread across different social networks, it wouldn’t work. Any project that doesn’t go where the fish are, is missing out. The fish are on Facebook and Twitter. People want to stay where they are.

Mark: It’s about finding ways to build relationships. Stephen Fry will give you a load of hits but next day, all the buzz has gone. YOu need to tap into individual’s stories on a certain level: things need to be interesting, fun, engaging.

Question: there’s a perception problem: you can’t have corporates and governements involved in something that’s socially-driven because of agendas. Each differnt country has its own cultures and sub-cultures. You can’t have Brand Us worldwide because of the cultural issues. What do the panel think?

Mark: I’ve known a project trying to give mobile phones in a community where women weren’t allowed mobile phones. In the end they painted the phones pink and the men didn’t want them. But ideally you need to find a way where the people that own the problems are the ones who can build the solutions. It’s not about white people building iphone apps for Africa.

Jeremy: I’ve just got to repeat what I said earlier, if you’re not in the room, you’re not playing the game. You’ve got to have constructive conversations. We are driving change in corporations. I get up every morning thinking there’s hope. Fifteen years ago I thought there was no hope.




 



 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *