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September 16 2011

08:36

The Art of Social Change – Why You Should Care

The European Congress of Culture that just ended in Wroclaw, Poland, has been one of the most important European events during this year’s Polish presidency in the EU. Run with impetus, packed with intellectual and artistic personalities, the congress made an attempt to highlight Europe's most important art initiatives. What about this cultural project could be interesting in the context of the NetSquared Community?

Technology Meets Art for the Social Good

I can think about at least two things. First of all, the congress’ motto: “art for social change.” When social change is the goal, the means leading to it are secondary. Many community arts projects already have their roots in new technologies, and the projects presented at the congress were no exception. During the event, I participated in the “Idea Generator” — an experiment inspired by the Social Innovation Camp model. For more than 24 hours, I found myself locked in a designed creative space with 50 other people. I had no Internet connection; they also took away our mobiles. We had nothing else to do than to form groups, think, plan, and work — be creative within this carefully defined setup. Our projects were all art-driven, all supported by technology. The idea was to address a real social need with an art project with a strong online component. A prime example was “e-motion,” the project I worked on myself. “E-motion” is about creating a map layer (in a form of an application). This emotional map would be the result of a joined effort: a week of the tech and art teamwork with young and elderly representatives of a certain local community. After the 24-hour sprint, we presented the results of our hard work in front of the Soul for Europe — a parliamentarian working group of the European Parliament.

 


When Wanting to Make a Change, a Focus on People is a Plus

What I really liked about the project was how in its core, unlike the “real” Social Innovation Camp, it focused on the participants rather than projects. The atmosphere of an experiment, of a performance even, made us feel like we were the artists and the stars of it all. The projects that we were inspired to create were as much about us as they were about the social challenge that we were trying to meet. However, I do not believe that truly meaningful projects can be designed within 24 hours. Great ideas can be born, but not implemented in that timeframe. It seems more honest to focus on things that we can actually achieve in this short period of time. And we can carefully examine our skills, work style, the role we happen to take when working in a group, re-think issues that we find most important. We can also meet people, make connections — all because of and for social change, but the impact cannot be - and never is - immediate.

Europe: The Challenge of Encouraging Diversity and Becoming "One"

The other thing that might be appealing to the international community was a discussion devoted to the topic first highlighted by Zygmunt Bauman during the congress opening speech: "What is Europe?" The European Union, and Europe itself, stands for a social, cultural, and political concept. The idea of Europe, although it is possible to differentiate it from the images that other continents bring to our minds, remains vague, undefined, and complex. We want to feel European because we know that, unless we form a union, we will eventually become unimportant, and overshadowed by the world’s big economies. However, we still have not figured out what this attempt of becoming “one” really means. We all speak different languages, we cultivate small local differences, and — interestingly enough — we want to make this diversity our strength.

Fussiness And Euro-Centrism

I couldn’t help noticing the euro-centrism of the event when I found this little note in the daily newspaper that depicted ECC discussions so carefully: The film awarded with the Silver Lion at this year’s Film Festival in Venice is “People Mountain People See”. It tells the story of Chongqing, the world’s biggest city — located in China — with 35 million inhabitants. Chongquing's population almost exceeds that of Poland. And it is bigger than many European nations — groups of people that were privileged enough to form their own complex cultural identity. The old continent is fascinating, but the history of a long cultural dominance over the world spoiled it. Whoever wants to go international by going European has to keep this in mind. Europe is many things, and all of them deserve your full attention.

All the materials linked are available in English language.

July 17 2011

01:20

Get inspired by the last week’s Social Innovation Camp in Sarajevo

Last weekend on June 9-10 in the city of Sarajevo activists and social innovators from the Central and Eastern Europe region and beyond got together to create tech projects driven by social needs. The event was organized by Internews and Transitions Online, and it was based on a Social Innovation Camp model.

 

Social Innovation Camp “brings together ideas, people and digital tools to build web-based solutions to social problems – all in just 48 hours.” The event  provides a setting for talented individuals to solve social challenges in new ways - by bringing together ideas and digital tools to create web-based innovations. SICamp gathers designers, social entrepreneurs, and web developers - in addition to marketing, legal, advertising, social needs experts and other specialists - to work on potential start-ups that can bring about change. The 48 hour sprint finishes with a competition to determine the winning projects that will receive further start-up support. This particular Social Innovation Camp, known under the name of Sicamp Internews (#sicampin), aimed to jumpstart a “digital activist” movement across Central and Eastern Europe, Southeastern Europe, and Central Asia.

 

Seven different projects were created during the intense 48 hours. They were judged based on four main criteria:

  1. Is there a demonstrated social need?
  2. Is the proposed technology solution feasible?
  3. Does it have a community?
  4.  Is it sustainable?

 
The show and tell event, which took place in a newly-opened Sarajevo art house cinema called Kriterion, contained of presentations of projects and prototypes, as well as a question round for each team. The winner of the competition, as chosen by the jury that I joined, is:

This project focuses on the information needs of pregnant women in Belarus. As a research of the project’s mastermind showed most of the pregnant woman in Belarus do not have information about their rights and the state support which they are entitled to. That problem further translates into them not only lacking information access, but also not being able to share their experience with other mums-to-be.  NovaMama! project creates an online space for this offline community to connect. It also invites specialists, such as lawyers and doctors to collaborate and pass their knowledge to those woman. NovaMama! has been created as a Belarusian project. It might be easily adaptable to different national reality if a need arises though.

 

Another issue that regional activists recognized to be shared across the region, is that  of young people (age 16-24) now knowing how and where they can entertain themselves in their own city, and, specifically, in their own neighbourhood. One of the Social Innovation teams came up with as crowdmap answer to this problem. As explained during the show and tell: “Map4Youth is a quick way of finding out where to do the things you love, right now!” The map allows youngsters to add their city favourites to the map, and build up points to exchange for some popular brands offerings. The target group of the project is a particularly difficult one to tackle, also the potential for the project’s growth is likely to cause sustainability issues. Nevertheless, the idea is simple but appealing.Originally the map covers the territory of the biggest Balkan city - Belgrade.  

3 out of 7 projects drafted and created during the camp focused on  journalism in it’s local and international scope. One of them - Newsify was honoured with the people’s choice award.

 

Congratulations again for the NovaMama! team and good luck for all the projects development along the way! NetSquared is looking forward to highlighting the real social change that those projects will drive in the region. It was an amazing experience to be a part of the outstanding jury team, and to learn from the amazing and passionate group of participants.

Thank you guys, we are keeping our fingers crossed for you! “Yes, you CAMP!”

 

To read, listen and watch more materials connected to the event visit the Social Innovation Camp Internews blog.

May 05 2011

08:18

Social Innovation Camp 2011 in Sarajevo

Social Innovation Camp brings together ideas, people, and digital tools to build web-based solutions to social problems — from hacking together software to working out how you'd sustain an idea — all in just 48 hours.

Do you have an idea you want to work on? Or maybe a particular technical solution that could be used for good? Social Innovation Camp Internews in Sarajevo is looking for inspiring ideas and committed people. The call for submissions will be closed Wednesday, May 25, 2011.

This year’s event will be held in Sarejevo on July 9-10, 2011 and organized by Internews and Transitions (TOL). The focus of Social Innovation Camp Internews is to jumpstart a “digital activist” movement across Central and Eastern Europe, Southeastern Europe, and Central Asia that uses information and communication technologies for positive social change.

Anyone from across the world — including people who work for NGOs or the media; who are public employees, web developers, business or marketing types who are enthusiastic about a social cause — is invited to attend the event as experts, volunteers, and developers. Travel grants are available for the priority countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

To apply for participation fill out this form.

Read more about the Social Innovation Camp Internews in Sarajevo: http://www.sicamp-internews.org

June 21 2010

10:13

One Week to Net2 Campfire in Paris!

NetSquared Campfire LogoThe NetSquared Campfire in Paris is less than one week away! The unconference tickets are now sold out, but everyone is welcome to participate virtually. If you're already on the guest list, let us know what you're most excited for in the comments section below.

 

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May 04 2010

08:16

WiserEarth.org Goes Multilingual and Plans to Bring International Sustainability Offline in Paris

WiserEarth logoWiserEarth.org, a nonprofit that offers social networking for the international sustainability movement, launched today in French, Portuguese and Spanish beta versions. This effort was realized thanks to more than 10 months of work by a team of 43 volunteer translators based in Brazil, France, Mexico and the US.

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