The Peckham Peace Wall

If you read my blog from last summer which talked about the London riots titled ‘Peckham is a real community‘, you’ll remember the photos of the ‘peace wall’. The wall of post-it notes put up by the local community sharing their thoughts on the riots and how it had affected Peckham.
The post-it notes were preserved and had been moved to the area outside of Peckham library in Peckham Square for a while but now they’ve been turned into a permanent ‘Peace Wall’.

Peckham Peace Wall by Louise Wilson

Every post-it note (ok, clearly the best have been selected) has been scanned in and turned into an organised wall called the ‘Peckham Peace Wall’. It was such a great surprise to come across the wall and be able to read the messages properly.

You can read about the project here:
Peckham Peace Wall by Garudio Studiage celebrates the wall of post-it notes of love and respect for the area which grew on Rye Lane following the disorder of last year, and launched on the 8th August 2012 to mark this one year anniversary.

Peckham Peace Wall up close photo by Louise Wilson

It’s amazing how a basic movement of messages has been transformed into a fantastic piece of art that brings the centre of Peckham to life.  It was even featured in Creative Review back in August.

I highly recommend going to have a look for yourself.

Advertisements

Peckham is a real community

When I tell people I live in Peckham, I am often faced with the question ‘why?’  Known for being the home of ‘Trotters Independent Traders’ from the tv show Only Fools and Horses and the place where Damilola Taylor was murdered, I can understand the question but it’s clear whoever asks hasn’t visited!

It’s a very creative neighbourhood with Camberwell College of Art and Goldsmith College close by, the South London Gallery and numerous art projects – Frank’s cafe, the pop-up Campari bar on the NCP carpark is a great example of the creative projects happening in the neighbourhood.

Peckham was hit by the sad events of the London Riots – shops were vandalised and a shop and bus were set on fire.

Photo from The Guardian website

Photo from The Guardian website

The riots were heartbreaking, sad and scary but over the last couple of days an even stronger sense of community has emerged. Peckham clearly has such a strong sense of togetherness that people have turned the Poundland boarded up window into a place to stick post-it notes of their feelings.
Peckham Poundland, Rye Lane

I went down to have a look to see what messages people were putting up. It had drawn a crowd of people reading what the community had to say and it has turned into a real piece of artwork. Peckham felt colourful, full of life and meaningful. The following messages really stuck out:

‘Peckham is home’
‘I love Peckham. I hate rioters’
‘Need discipline’
‘Community, don’t do it’
‘Crime doesn’t pay’
‘Burger King will reopen and you are barred’

Peckham post riot messages

These messages are important, not only for people to get their feelings across to others but to strengthen the community, make the rioters realise that the critical mass of poeple is made up of people wanting to live in a pleasant place, that if we empower people to make a difference we can live in happiness. The riot clean up was amazing, I wish I could taken part to help clean up after the riots – I would say I’ll be there next time but my hope is that this community won’t allow this to happen again.

Message being written on post-riot board, Peckham

Message being written on post-riot board, Peckham

Insightful South Africa

Visiting South Africa blew me away – its beauty is undescrible, its vast landscapes are unimagineable and the ‘african skies’ are magnificant. It’s a real shame though that it’s sustainable issues are, in my eyes, desparate.

I had heard about people talking about crime in South Africa and had been told numerous times to lock car doors, not walk around at night and not to go near the Townships but no one had mentioned the environmental or social issues I’d see.

Here are a few of the insights I picked up on my 2 week travels.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Banner in Knysna - Water Stressed Area

Banner in Knysna – Water Stressed Area

It was interesting coming into Knysna on the Garden Route to see a large banner saying ‘this is a water stressed area’ – the countryside was incredibly lush and it had rained all day!

The banners were also posted on rubbish bins and on lamp posts helping them to stand out to people walking or driving by.

Although it was good to see someone being environmentally conscious and keen to get the message across but the campaign didn’t appear to be carried out futher. There were no messages to explain how they suggested the locals to cut back on their water use. And, if i wasn’t educated on water use and the environmental problems we face regarding water, I would see this sign as ‘not my problem’.

While watching tv that evening, a large star burst flash came up on the screen saying ‘save energy – turn off your television when you are not watching it’.  It was definitely eye catching and possibly a message we, in the UK should be adopting. Do the locals take note?

'eco diesel'

‘eco diesel’

Apart from the new buses that had been introduced in Cape Town after the Football World Cup and the local mini bus style taxis (who will change their route to suit customers!) everyone appears to drive.  No one commutes by bicycle and trains are hardly used (or seen!).  I saw this sign at a petrol station saying ‘eco diesel. good for your car, even better for your world’.  You could argue that eco diesel (whatever that really is!) is more environmentally friendly than using unleaded petrol but wouldn’t it better for people to learn how to ‘eco drive‘, car share or encourage better public transport?

I found it hard to find many recycling points around Cape Town and the surrounding towns.  We did, however go to a farmers market style happening in the Woodstock area of Cape Town and there people appeared to be more environmentally conscious.  There was a recycling notice stating that the neighbourgoods market was recycling and that there were separate bins to put recycling into.  Although the sign was clear, easy to read and placed in a prominent place, I didn’t see the recycling bins and am sure all the rubbish went into one bin….

Recycling notice board

Recycling notice board

There is clearly an educational element needed in the city to help people understand the necessity of how to recycle!

There was a story on the news one evening about the problem with travelling between Johanesberg and Durban.  The train currently takes a large amount of time as does driving, therefore the taxi company have decided to set up a local cost ‘taxi’ airline to fly people between the two towns. Designed to work like a taxi rank, people will line up and get on the next available plane.  When people were interviewed to ask their opinion of the new service, there were comments along the lines of ‘the local taxi service is terrible so this won’t work’ rather than ‘we should not be harming the environment by flying’.  South Africa, please build a high speed train line before encouraging cheap flights!

WESTERN INFLUENCES

'eco' reuseable coffee cup

‘eco’ reuseable coffee cup

In Western countries, especially London as I see it everyday, the ‘to go’ coffee culture is bigger than ever.  Whether it’s a fashionable thing or a convenience thing, people are buying coffees on their way to work or when they are out and about. The good thing is that people are being more environmentally conscious and buying reusable coffee cups (the KeepCup is a popular brand).

Recent research (see Lucy Siegel’s article ‘Are Single Use Paper Cups Evil?‘ in the Guardian) does show however that the energy used to produce and then wash a cup each time does not necessarily challenge the energy used to produce paper cups and recycle them….

My point here is that there is not the same ‘to go’ coffee culture, that I noticed, in South Africa but clearly the coffee shops either feel they should be selling ‘eco cups to help the environment’ or that it is a good way to make money!  Western trends are definitely strong in South Africa.

INNOVATION & COMMUNITY

Beer can display at Cape Town airport

Beer can display at Cape Town airport

The only place that I saw any type of local art work to do with sustainability was at the airport as I was leaving Cape Town.

I couldn’t find any information on what the installation was for but someone had clearly designed a fantastic looking tree with leaves/flowers made out of recycled beer cans.

Maybe it was a simple way to promote the beer drunk in South Africa….? I’d love to know who produced it.

We visited the Cape Wine region close to Cape Town and were really impressed with the Solms-Delta wine estate.  I had been to an event the week before travelling to South Africa where Mark Delta (director) had explained the importance of providing a sustainable future for the estate and those working on the estate. He had over come a social problem where the people working on the farm felt they owned the farm but weren’t being heard, by mortagaging his land to buy the plot of land next door for the farmers to own. This way, both the Delta estate and the local workers could work in collaboration with empowered workers for a sustainable future.  The estate runs various events through out the year to promote community projects, fundraising and encouraging local collaboration.  They also produce a fantastic range of wines (which should not be over looked)!

Solms-Delta wine estate

Solms-Delta wine estate

SOCIAL ISSUES

I was shocked at the number of social issues in and around Cape Town.  Ignoring theft, muggings etc, the general urban issues that cause everyday annoyance or problems was pretty sad.  I was surprised to hear that even though there is a postal service, you are hardly likely to receive any post (unless it is a plain, thin envelope) as it gets stolen before it reaches your letter box!  Apparently Amazon do deliver to South Africa now but the service is not regularly used due to the unlikely event of actually receiving the items purchased!

Message on a PostBox in Cape Town
Message on a PostBox in Cape Town

Maybe it’s also a problem in the UK but I noticed a letter box in Cape Town with a sign on it asking people not to put their rubbish in the box.  It is clearly a problem which means a notice was necessary.

To sum up my trip, South Africa is well worth a visit. I was pleasantly surprised that it is a self sufficient country in terms of produce yet the social issues seriously need some help.  The racist attitude and urban poverty were hard to stomach which really need to be overcome for the country to flourish.

Environmental education, better communication and western knowledge could really benefit the country and make it even more amazing than it currently is.

Have you been to South Africa? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Bicycles helping women in Uganda

I recently came across this website for a community program, Ride 4 Women that empowers women in Uganda and provides them with bicycles so that they can reduce the time to travel, become economically stable and in turn safer in their community. The women in Uganda tend to do all the jobs around the house for a smooth running community but this ‘leaves no time for them to learn a trade to earn money and very little time for them to learn from each other’

Ride4Women

Ride4Women

With the following objectives:
1. Set up our Women’s Community Centre to be the women’s safe haven.
2. Equip women with vocational skills and adult education.
3. Set up income generating activities.
4. Train women in improved agriculture and animal rearing.
and use of bicycles, I’d love to get involved and wanted to share this discovery with everyone.

I have a personal connection with Uganda and a passion for the country and realised when I visited that they face many challenges which are not always easy to solve. It was clear that women do all the hard work, that adult education is non existent and setting up income generated activities would really benefit a large number of women. They did not appear very entreprenurial but maybe this is because the women need empowering for their communities to be more successful.

This type of project is an example of the type of concepts being posted by the OpenIDEO community.

The power of communities

I have already expressed a passion in previous blog posts for collaborative consumption and building communities but this has only been exagerated by signing up with IDEO‘s online platform OpenIDEO. Rachel Botsman recently posted a Twitter message that said successful collaborative consumption ventures ‘come down to two golden rules: convenience & choice’. This has proven to be very true – OpenIDEO has been my choice to join and it is very convenient to use, especially if you already think in a socially orientated way!

OpenIDEO logo

OpenIDEO logo


The online platform was set up to encourage people to design better together; crowd source information, build on others ideas and come up with sustainable solutions that can be implemented to help a community in some way.

I love the fact that it is unintrusive; I can browse the posted inspirations, read about the various challenges, choose which ones I want to take part in, post as many pieces of inspirations and/or concepts as I wish, comment on as many as I wish, applaude, bookmark, build…. you name it, they have thought about it. If I wanted, I could choose to be a passive member of the community. I could log on once in a while and simply read what has been added. On the other hand, anyone with an inquiring mind or slightly competitive nature will want to add inspiration, post concepts and build on other people’s posts.

OpenIDEO design quotient

OpenIDEO design quotient

The ‘design quotient’ adds another engaging aspect; it is a pie chart which shows how many points you have earnt for taking part in the challenges – what a fantastic way to encourage people to return to the site. I’m not sure if it is deliberate but it is not always that obvious where your points have come from – points definitely get added when someone has built on your idea but you do have to dig around to find out where from!

I first heard about OpenIDEO when Tom Hulme presented it at InterSections2011 in Cornwall at the start of March. He gave a very powerful and captivating talk about how the platform has grown and how building online communities in turn helps so many people around the world. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more…. Described on the website as ‘a place where people design better, together for social good. It’s an online platform for creative thinkers: the veteran designer and the new guy who just signed on, the critic and the MBA, the active participant and the curious lurker. Together, this makes up the creative guts of OpenIDEO’. It has been designed to be inclusive, community-centred, collaborative, optimistic and always in beta (open to continuous improvement). These are all words which are core to being a successful social innovator.

I highly recommend watching this video which explains how OpenIDEO works:

– No one should ever be left out because they are not a ‘designer’ or feel they are not creative.
– If socially orientated people (or anyone!) do not think community, they will get left behind and isolated at some point.
– Sharing ideas, knowledge, insight and experiences is essential for an idea to blossom. Two people with the same challenges can come up with very different concepts yet help each other with what they have learnt.
– I do not believe in pessimism
– Being open to continuous improvement is a very brave yet realistic point to make. How can your idea ever be 100% finished, especially as society is forever changing?

Example concept for food production challenge

The challenges are set with industry partners on real life problems which is another reason why I have become so attached to the community. I know that any inspiration, concept or evaluation of another concept I contribute with can help to build on the ‘winning concept’ which in turn will make a difference for many people in the world. The industry partners are able to take the well thought through ideas into the situations they are required in.

The blog ‘Failed Robot‘ has a interesting write up on the platform which shows a diagram to help explain who gets involved and why. Some great thinking has gone into why people take certain actions and this is particularly interesting when related to social issues within an online community.

Well done, OpenIDEO for
– being slightly addictive; twitter feeds are posted to show you the latest activity,
– for capturing content; the OpenIDEO community tribunal is regularly published providing an overview of the latest posting and stories and
– for allowing members to really feel part of a community; testimonials can be written, applauding can be given, comments are welcomed and the OpenIDEO community champions are fantastic at helping build on ideas.

It doesn’t matter what your background is, what your nationality is or what culture you are from, we can all learn from each other and this is fantastic. It removes any barriers from communicating with other members and instead encourages collaboration between like minded people.

IBM Start Jam

IBM Start Jam

Another example of successful online collaboration was this week’s IBM Start Jam. A two day event of collaborating on sustainable innovation took place online and a vast number of people took part. Guest contributors came on for set amounts of time while other people simply contributed over the 48 hours. The online platform appeared to be aimed at sustainability consultants, innovation managers, CSR consultants and corporate organisations.

Set up to encourage innovative collaboration around the globe with multidisciplinary and open mindsets, the Start Jam brought ‘different perspectives together to discover new solutions to long-standing problems’. IBM wanted to work across industries, disciplines, and national borders which they managed to do. I didn’t find the interface very intuative but once a question had been posted and people started to reply, the threads grew and I was soon hooked on reading all the responses. Seeing how conversations developed, how people responded and how focused people were on the original question fascinates me. Some people really thought on a corporate level yet the posts I could relate to more were the local, community focused ones. It didn’t mean they were not as relevant, I just felt they were more true to real life situations.

As the Start Jam was only for a short period of time (unlike OpenIDEO which is ongoing) it meant that people tended to have short bursts of collaboration (maybe in their break time or time allocated during their day to take part) which to me took away the community element. If you commented on someone’s post, they were less likely to comment back. This could have been because they had logged off and felt they were done with their contribution or because there was no incentive (no Design Quotient) to return!

I have to questions why these types of online platforms and community builders only seem to happen in the sustainability and social innovation sectors? Are other industries less happy to share information or maybe they do not see the power of building a community around a subject? Maybe their community are not ready or do not have the time to take part in an online platform? I think it all comes down to design thinking – design thinkers understand the need for concise storytelling, collaboration and are able to take a small piece of inspiration and realise it into a sustainable solution efficiently. This has to be done through engagement, empathy, prototyping (or all three!) and realising that it takes a team of different disciplines for an idea to be successful.

I wish I could have taken part in the service design, Global Jam 2011 where service designers in different countries set up Jams together to design brand new services inspired by a shared theme. Time and effort are required for these types of events but service designers and social innovators are forever inspired by them!

The People’s Supermarket Yard Party

Today was a lovely sunny, mild Saturday which suited a yard party at The People’s Supermarket perfectly. I hadn’t been to the supermarket since I interviewed Arthur Potts Dawson for my masters thesis back in September and it was really encouraging to see how it has developed. The channel 4 tv series has clearly been a huge help in increasing its members and attracting more customers; the shelves were well stocked, there were more selling units being used and the range of stock has increased.

Today’s event was part of the Fairtrade Fortnight – an initiative set up to ‘ask the nation to show off about buying Fairtrade which offers 7.5 million people in the developing world a more secure future’ – something I feel is worth supporting. There was Divine chocolate tasting, coffee tasting, popcorn, live music, talks and the best bit, a bicycle powered banana smoothie maker!

The People's Supermarket Yard Party

There was such a great community feel to the party. The volunteers were friendly, everyone was made to feel welcome and such a great idea to run an event where everyone has to walk through the shop to get to it.

Potts Dawson is definitely doing a good job. He has been quoted to say ‘let’s take on Tesco with a ‘people’s supermarket’ and I think, after today’s visit, you can say he is doing exactly that; the lovely bunches of flowers for sale outside were beautifully displayed and very affordable, there were loaves of ‘rustic’ bread being sold off for 50p, you could serve yourself small jars of spices for 10p each (perfect amount if you’re not a huge spice lover) and there were large bags of sugar and flower allowing you to take what you needed. The communication around the shop and small messages about the food made you want to buy from them. The unusual yet appealing brands encouraged you to wander through the aisles and the fresh produce was simply refreshing to see.

The People's Supermarket

If you haven’t been before, I highly recommend a visit. The prices are decided by the members. Some I’d say were higher than expected while others were lower but overall the experience makes it worth shopping there. At the end of the day, you are helping promote independent supermarkets. No more Tescos please…..

Well done, People’s Supermarket!